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Syrian, Iranian, Swiss officials discuss Syria aid access

Residents receive food aid distributed by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) at the besieged al-Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus February 4, 2014, in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA. (REUTERS/SANA)

TEHRAN: Syrian, Iranian and Swiss officials met in Tehran Tuesday to discuss improving aid access to victims of the conflict in Syria, a delegate at the talks said.

The meeting, the third between the three parties since April 2013, looked at "establishing more favourable conditions for humanitarian action," Manuel Bessler, the delegate of the Swiss Federal Council for Humanitarian Aid, told AFP.

Bessler met Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and his Syrian counterpart Hussameddin Ala.

Tehran has been a key regional ally to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he has battled an uprising that erupted in March 2011.

Officials from the three countries discussed securing access to Syrian war zones, obtaining visas for humanitarian workers, the number of NGOs permitted to work in Syria and ways of getting aid to those in need.

Bessler said 11 million Syrians are dependent on humanitarian aid.

The next meeting between the three sides has been slated for March, but the exact date and place of the talks have yet to be decided.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has said some 245,000 Syrians are living under siege and are facing severe difficulties, including gaining access to food.

The UN World Food Programme on Tuesday restarted its aid airlift into the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, aiming to feed some 30,000 people for one month.

At UN-brokered peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Geneva last week, the only tangible pledge to emerge concerned aid for civilians in rebel-held parts of the central city of Homs, besieged by the military since June 2012.

But the warring sides have traded barbs over who is blocking an international aid convoy which agencies say has been standing ready for days.

UN agencies have steered clear of pinning blame and have repeatedly appealed for access to Syrians in desperate need.

"As of this morning, the convoy in Homs is not moving," said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the United Nations' humanitarian coordination arm.

 

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Summary

Syrian, Iranian and Swiss officials met in Tehran Tuesday to discuss improving aid access to victims of the conflict in Syria, a delegate at the talks said.

Officials from the three countries discussed securing access to Syrian war zones, obtaining visas for humanitarian workers, the number of NGOs permitted to work in Syria and ways of getting aid to those in need.

The UN World Food Programme on Tuesday restarted its aid airlift into the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, aiming to feed some 30,000 people for one month.


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