The United Nations urged the Syrian regime on Thursday to allow immediate aid deliveries to hunger-stricken civilians in besieged areas after a ceasefire agreed between Russia and the United States was extended for 48 hours.
"Humanitarian access, that is what makes a difference for the people, apart from seeing no more bombs or mortar shelling taking place. On that one, we have a problem," United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said in a press conference in Geneva.
He said the regime is expected to provide letters of facilitation which would allow aid convoys to reach east Aleppo, where around 250,000 civilians are besieged by regime forces.
"Those facilitation letters, final permission for the UN to actually reach those areas [in need], have not been received. That's a fact. It is particularly regrettable because normally during these days we are losing time. These are days which we should have used for convoys to move with the permit to go because there is no fighting."
A nationwide ceasefire, the latest bid to end a five-year conflict that has killed thousands of people, came into effect on Monday at 7.00pm local time.
It is aimed at halting the fighting between the Syrian regime and opposition groups and includes specifying improved access for humanitarian aid and requiring the withdrawal of regime forces from the Castello road supply route.
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) 13 September 2016
Forty trucks loaded with aid had crossed into a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria, raising hopes the supplies could be delivered to besieged opposition-held districts of Aleppo city by Friday.
"They've been waiting and sleeping at the border now for 48 hours. So they could go on a minute's notice," said Jan Egeland, head of the UN humanitarian task force for Syria.
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) 11 September 2016
The ceasefire was extended for further 48 hours after a call between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.
A spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, David Swanson, said that the extension provides a critical window of opportunity to assist people in need.
"That being said, the clock is ticking and time is of the essence."