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Syria gives UN green light to keep two border crossings from Turkey to rebel-held northwest open for aid

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Syria has agreed to keep two border crossings open from Turkey to the rebel-held northwest for another three months to deliver aid, the United Nations announced Tuesday.

The UN “deeply welcomes” the Syrian government’s decision to keep the Bab al-Salameh and al-Rai crossings open until November 13, said UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.

But the most convenient crossing into the area, Bab al-Hawa, remains closed, though Haq said the United Nations is in talks with the Syrian government and remains ready to reopen it if “obstacles” can be overcome. “We hope we can do this,” he told reporters.

The UN Security Council on July 11 passed neither of two rival resolutions to allow further deliveries through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, which had been used to deliver 85% of aid to Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.

It is home to about 4.1 million people, many of whom were forced from their homes during the 12-year civil war that killed nearly half a million and displaced half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million . Hundreds of thousands of people in Idlib live in tent camps and depended on aid coming through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.

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Syrian President Bashar Assad opened the two additional border crossings from Turkey at Bab al-Salameh and al-Rai to aid the flow of aid to victims of the devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit northwestern Syria and southern Turkey on February 8 , to increase. operation for three months in May to August 13.

Haq said the Syrian government informed UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths in a letter on Sunday that the UN may continue to use the two border crossings until November 13.

Syria has imposed conditions on the renewal of deliveries through Bab al-Hawa, which the UN humanitarian office has largely rejected.

Syria insisted that aid deliveries should be “in full cooperation and coordination with the government”, that the UN not communicate with “terrorist organizations” and their affiliates, and that the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent would lead relief operations.

The UN responded that the ban on communication with groups deemed “terrorist” by the Syrian government would prevent the UN and partner organizations from “dealing with relevant state and non-state parties as this is operationally necessary to ensure safe and unfettered humanitarian operations”.

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Determining that aid deliveries should be overseen by the Red Cross or Red Crescent is “neither consistent with United Nations independence nor practical” as those organizations “have no presence in northwestern Syria,” it said in a letter.

The letter also noted that the Syrian government’s request to deliver aid in “full cooperation and coordination” with Damascus should be “reviewed”.

Those seem to be the issues that Haq said are now being discussed with the Syrian government.

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