Russia offers Syria military facilities to help with international aid deliveries

Friday 04/03/2016
Landmark ceasefire allows much needed humanitarian aid to be delivered

MOSCOW - Russia's defence ministry on Monday said it would open up its military facilities in Syria to international aid deliveries in a bid to bolster humanitarian assistance in the war-torn country.

"The ministry is ready to provide necessary assistance to international and foreign organisations in delivering humanitarian cargoes to the Syrian Arab Republic," it said in a statement.

The statement said Moscow would open up its naval logistics facility at the port of Tartus "for the unloading and temporary storage" of aid deliveries as well as its Hmeimim airbase in Latakia province.

Russia was also ready to provide vehicles to help transfer the aid inside Syria, the statement added.

A landmark ceasefire that came into force in Syria over a week ago has led to a dramatic drop in fighting and allowed much needed humanitarian aid to be delivered.

The truce between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and non-jihadist rebels, brokered by Russia and the United States, has defied expectations and led to the first significant decline in violence in Syria's nearly five-year civil war.

Russia and the United States are on opposing sides of the conflict -- Moscow backs Assad and Washington supports the opposition -- but the two powers have made a concerted push for the ceasefire and further peace efforts to succeed.

Moscow, which has provided a daily account of ceasefire violations, said Monday that the truce was still "in general" holding apart from unspecified "isolated provocations and shelling".

It said Russian planes were continuing to carry out air strikes against the Islamic State group and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front in three provinces, including on the main IS stronghold of Raqa.

Russia launched an air campaign in September it says is targeting "terrorists" but it has been accused of hitting non-jihadist rebels in support of Assad's forces.