AP – The UN envoy for Syria says if the cessation of hostilities holds there may be a meeting of the coalition of some 20 countries trying to end the conflict on the sidelines of next week’s gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York.
Staffan de Mistura said the meeting of the International Syria Support Group — which includes regional and world powers and Syria’s neighbors — may be held before a ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council on Syria on Sept. 21.
If the coalition meets, the political process needs to be on the horizon and invitations for a new round of political talks could follow, he said.
Saudi Arabia has welcomed the US and Russian-brokered truce in Syria and urged the Syrian government and its allies to abide by it.
In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry said that it was following the ceasefire with interest and hoped it will help alleviate suffering among the “brotherly Syrian people.”
The ministry said it also hoped for the resumption of talks aimed at ensuring a peaceful political transition in accordance with UN resolutions.
The UN envoy for Syria also hailed a “significant drop in violence” over the first 24 hours of the new ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia.
Staffan de Mistura said that no UN humanitarian aid trucks have yet moved across the Turkish border into Syria.
He said UN officials were awaiting assurances that drivers of aid trucks will be “unhindered and untouched.”
De Mistura said that no letters of authorization from Syria’s government are needed under the US and Russian arrangement, only a simple “notification” to Damascus about the contents of the trucks that “have not yet moved.”
He said that aid for rebel-held eastern Aleppo is a top priority.
Dozens of people in Syria’s Aleppo are protesting against the United Nations ahead of an expected aid delivery, saying that they want a government siege lifted so they don’t have to rely on humanitarian assistance.
Modar Shekho, a 28-year old nurse, said residents of rebel-held Aleppo don’t want food aid, but an end to a government siege of the area, where some 250,000 people still reside.
One banner carried by the protesters on Tuesday reads: “Hunger is better than humiliation.”
Shekho said the ceasefire will only serve Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s government. He said the promised UN aid doesn’t cover essentials such as fuel or medical supplies.
A Syrian activist group that tracks the country’s civil war says more than 300,000 people have been killed so far in the conflict.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that the dead include 59,000 government troops and more than 86,000 civilians. The rest include rebels, foreign fighters, Hezbollah militants, defectors from the Syrian army and others.
The Observatory said its records show that since the crisis began in March 2011 and until a truce went into effect on Monday evening, 301,781 people have been killed in Syria.
The group said the real death toll could be 70,000 higher since many insurgent groups don’t announce their deaths and because there are other deaths that are not documented.
The latest death toll figure from the UN, which stopped tracking casualties in 2015, had said that 250,000 have been killed in Syria.