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Jordan to allow aid drop at Syria border
October 11, 2016
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AMMAN: Jordan is willing to allow regular aid drops by crane from its territory to tens of thousands of Syrians stranded on its sealed desert border, the government spokesman said on Monday.

The comments by Mohammed Momani signalled an apparent shift in Jordan’s position in talks with international aid agencies over access to the displaced.

However, two aid officials said nothing has been finalised. They spoke on condition of anonymity because talks are ongoing.

Jordan has sealed its border with Syria in June, after a deadly cross-border attack claimed by Daesh killed seven members the Jordanian security forces. This has left more than 75,000 Syrians stuck between a war zone and a sealed border, without regular access to food, water and medicine.

The displaced live in two make-shift tent camps in an area where the frontier is marked by two parallel low earthen walls, or berms.

In August, Jordan permitted an aid drop by crane, in what was described at the time as a one-off shipment.

UN agencies have since proposed setting up an aid distribution center between five and seven kilometres west of the largest encampment, known as Rukban, within the strip marked by the two berms, an aid official said. This would presumably have drawn the Syrians away from a Jordanian military base that is close to Rukban.

However, Momani said on Monday that this is no longer being considered.

“The new mechanism will be delivering aid on the berm through cranes, and the aid will be given to community leaders of groups of Syrians so they can distribute it accordingly,” he said, adding it would be up to the aid agencies to decide on the pace of shipments.

Momani said the border will remain sealed, citing an ongoing security threat to Jordan. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday again asked the Security Council to formally request that the International Criminal Court (ICC) begin investigations of war crimes in Syria.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon says Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s “failure of leadership” caused the deaths of over 300,000 people, according to an interview released on Monday.

Asked by the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle if he considered Assad a mass murderer, Ban said that question was for other institutions to answer.

He added, though: “It’s true that because of his failure of leadership so many people have died, more than 300,000 people have been killed.”

Ban also said he had urged US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia “to restore the cessation of hostilities, so we can deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance.”

Separately, France’s foreign minister has called on the ICC to investigate Russia for possible war crimes in Syria.

Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France-Inter radio on Monday that “France intends to get in touch with the prosecutor to find out how the probe can be launched.”

Ayrault says France disagrees with Russia’s “bombarding” of Aleppo and “is committed as never before to saving the population.”

He says the investigation would hinge on Moscow’s role in the aerial offensive in the rebel-held eastern part of the city.

French President Francois Hollande is weighing up whether to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Paris next week after the Kremlin blocked a UN bid to end to the bombing of Aleppo, the French government said on Monday.

Putin is due in Paris on Oct.19 to inaugurate a new Orthodox church next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.


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