The Lone Link for Aid Between Syria and Turkey Is Not Usable After the Quake

According to UN officials, the only UN-approved border crossing between Syria and Turkey to transport international aid into Syria has been closed because surrounding roads were damaged by the earthquake. .

The border crossing, known as Bab al-Hawa, has been the only connection point for aid for the past nine years, when Syria was still in turmoil. civil war.

Turkey is a member of NATO and maintains friendly diplomatic relations with many countries around the world, giving it access to direct assistance and aid. But Syria, which is being sanctioned by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, cannot receive direct aid from many countries. NGOs must provide aid, making the crossing from Turkey a lifeline.

Officials from the United Nations’ World Food Program said on Tuesday that the bridge was still intact after Monday’s devastating earthquake, but it was not in use because the roads leading there were already closed. damaged or closed. The agency said it is currently using existing stockpiles inside Syria to respond, but it will need to replenish.

“If Bab al-Hawa doesn’t work, technically there doesn’t seem to be another way to get cross-border aid into the northwest,” said Julien Barnes-Dacey, program director for the Middle East and North Africa program. Syria”. at the European Council on Foreign Relations, referring to the area affected by the earthquake.

“Even reaching Bab al-Hawa seems to be a big challenge at the moment,” he added. “It’s not as if roads are operating into Syria from Turkey.”

In recent years at the United Nations, Russia, a pro-Assad, has tried to block aid from Turkey to opposition areas of Syria and instead distribute all aid. from the capital, Damascus, which is controlled by the government.

Speaking at the United Nations on Monday, Bassam al-Sabbagh, Syria’s representative, called for the sanctions to be lifted, saying they were hindering aid and suggested that aid should instead come through through the government in Damascus.

Ned Price, a spokesman for the US State Department, said at a briefing on Monday that the United States is determined to do what it can to address the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people. “We did it during a 12-year civil war that cost us billions of dollars – we did it through a different process,” he said, referring to NGO groups. access Syria through Turkey.

Sharvan Ibesh, executive director of the Bahar Foundation, an aid group based in the Turkish city of Gaziantep near the epicenter, said the border appeared to be closed for logistical reasons, including Workers of both sides were affected by the earthquake. earthquake. “Nothing is clear regarding the intersections,” he said.

Aid organizations faced other logistical problems after the earthquake.

“Antakya airport and the road from Antakya to Bab al-Hawa have become trash, as has the road from Gaziantep to Antakya,” Emma Beals, an adviser at the European Institute of Peace, wrote on Twitter, referring to one airport. flying in Hatay province in southern Turkey.

Devastation in Turkey is likely to affect rescue efforts in Syria.

“What is especially bad with the current situation is that normally when a crisis occurs in Syria, the situation on the Turkish side is fine,” said Ibesh, of the Bahar Organization. “But the Turkish provinces themselves along the Syrian border are also affected.”

Hwaida Saad contribution report.


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