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US accuses Syrian government of diverting earthquake aid

UN ambassador Robert Wood said Syrian government’s diversion of aid 'has ended up for sale in markets or in the hands of authorities seeking to benefit from its distribution'
Syrian men gather by a destroyed building near al-Tulul village in Salqin, Syria, on 9 February 2023 (AFP)

The US has accused the Syrian government of diverting international humanitarian aid intended for earthquake survivors to instead benefit Syrian authorities.

Ambassador Robert Wood, the alternate US representative for special political affairs at the United Nations, accused “other actors” of diverting aid and blocking deliveries in Syria.

Turkey-Syria earthquake: The UN must intervene now, or more people will die
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“As we work to increase aid to all affected Syrians, we must remain cognizant of the troubling reports of the regime’s diversion of lifesaving aid that has ended up for sale in markets or in the hands of authorities seeking to benefit from its distribution,” he said at a UN security council briefing on the political and humanitarian situation in Syria on Tuesday.

He said the US calls on the Syrian government "and all parties" to facilitate humanitarian operations and to refrain from diverting or politicising aid.

The devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria that struck on 6 February have killed over 50,000 people and injured over 100,000.

Geir Pedersen, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, said the earthquakes struck “when services were scarcest, when the economy was lowest, and when their infrastructure was already heavily damaged”.

“This means resources; this is the time for everybody to give quickly and generously to Syria and remove all hindrances to relief reaching Syrians in all affected areas. And this means calm; this is not the time for military action or violence.”

Pedersen also said the humanitarian response in Syria was going at a slow pace, which he believes has to do with the challenges relating to unresolved issues at the heart of the conflict. He added that Syrians are the ones who "pay a heavy price".

“I have long said that the situation in Syria is unsustainable, that the status quo is totally unacceptable, and that the Syrian people are acutely vulnerable to issues not solely in their hands,” he said. 

On Monday, the US House of Representatives approved a resolution mourning the loss of life in Turkey and Syria and condemning the government of Bashar al-Assad for its alleged efforts to “cynically exploit the disaster to evade international pressure and accountability”. 

The measure was approved in a bipartisan 412-2 vote, The Hill reported.

“To the brutal Assad regime and its backers - war criminal Putin, the authoritarian ayatollah in Iran- there will be a message: your diversion of humanitarian aid during an earthquake is despicable,” Congressman Joe Wilson, the sponsor of the resolution, said on the House floor on Monday. 

"The US Congress stands united. We will never normalise with you. We will hold all those who attempt to normalize with you accountable, and we will not stop supporting the people of Syria to have a government they deserve based on democracy with rule of law, not authoritarians with rule of gun."

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