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Syria Today – Deal on Cross-Border Aid Lapses; Syrian Pound Hits all Time Low

Your daily-brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Deal on Cross-Border Aid Lapses; Syrian Pound Hits all Time Low

According to diplomatic sources, negotiations persisted at the United Nations on Monday as officials worked urgently to secure a timely agreement to extend crucial cross-border assistance to millions of individuals in Syria. The national currency, already under strain, plummeted to a meager exchange rate of 47 pounds to the dollar when the country’s civil war erupted in 2011. Subsequently, the conflict has inflicted immense devastation, claiming the lives of over 500,000 people, displacing millions, and severely damaging Syria’s infrastructure and industrial sectors.

Still no UN vote on extending cross-border aid to Syria as deal lapses

Negotiations continued at the United Nations Monday as officials scrambled to reach a last-minute agreement on extending vital cross-border aid to millions of people in Syria, according to diplomatic sources.

A vote on the deal’s extension, originally scheduled for 10:00 am (1400 GMT) Monday, “has been postponed to allow for further consultation among Security Council members,” the British UN mission, which heads the council this month, said on Twitter.

AFP reports that the 15-member Security Council does not have a plan for when it will reconvene, according to another diplomatic source, while the existing aid deal expires Monday after having been renewed for six months in January.

The arrangement, which began in 2014, allows the UN to deliver humanitarian aid from Turkey to populations living in rebel-held regions of northwestern Syria without navigating areas controlled by government forces.

The mechanism originally allowed for four entry points, though now only the Bab al-Hawa crossing remains passable, and the accord comes up for renewal every six months due to pressure from Damascus ally Moscow.

Now, the crossing provides more than 80 percent of the needs of people living in rebel-controlled areas — everything from diapers and blankets to chickpeas.

According to several diplomatic sources, the latest resolution — drafted by Switzerland and Brazil — would allow for a one-year renewal, as demanded by humanitarian workers.

But Russia, which in July 2022 vetoed a one-year extension, is again insisting it will only agree to another six-month deal, according to the same sources.

Government forces shell Turkish military base in Syria’s Azaz  

On Monday, Syrian government forces shelled a military base of the Turkish forces in Aleppo northern countryside, North Press reported.

A military source said that the government forces targeted the Turkish military base near the city of Azaz, some 45 km north of Aleppo, with seven missiles.

The shelling comes in coincidence with a military escalation and mutual shelling in the de-escalation zone in northwest Syria for a month.

Although the de-escalation zone in northwest Syria is subject to a Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement signed in March 2020, the area witnesses frequent mutual bombardment between Syrian government forces and opposition factions accompanied by Russian warplanes’ flight despite the entry of the ceasefire into force.

In March 2020, Russia and Turkey reached an agreement in Moscow that stipulated a ceasefire, the establishment of a safe corridor, and the conduct of joint patrols on the M4/Aleppo-Latakia Highway.   

Azaz and its countryside have been under the occupation of the Turkish forces and their affiliated armed opposition factions known as the Syrian National Army (SNA) since July 2012.

Areas held by the Turkish forces and their affiliated SNA factions witness security chaos including arrests, kidnappings, thefts, fighting, and successive murders in light of the factions’ disability to maintain security. 

Syrian Pound Falls to Near 10,000 Against Dollar On Black Market

The value of the Syrian pound plunged Monday to nearly 10,000 against the dollar on the black market, websites monitoring the exchange rate said, following years of conflict and crippling sanctions.

The embattled currency stood at just 47 pounds to the dollar before Syria’s civil war broke out in 2011. The conflict has since killed more than 500,000 people, displaced millions and battered the country’s infrastructure and industry.

The pound hit a new record low of 9,750 to the dollar Monday, according to the unofficial exchange rate monitoring sites which traders use to determine the price of goods, Asharq al-Awsat reported.

The official exchange rate approved by the central bank is 6,532 pounds to the dollar.

Damascus has blamed the country’s economic woes on Western sanctions and the knock-on effects of an economic collapse in neighbouring Lebanon that has stemmed the flow of dollars into government-held areas.

The new plunge comes in the wake of Syria’s recent return to the Arab fold after years of isolation.

“The war has not ended yet, and the reasons for the drop in the pound’s value have not changed,” said economist Ammar Yussef, pointing to “ongoing sanctions blocking exports”.

“The Arab opening towards Damascus hasn’t started to have an impact yet, particularly as it hasn’t been accompanied by concrete economic steps,” he added.

Syrian Kurdish fighters kill at least 5 Turkey-backed gunmen in nighttime attack, activists say

Syrian Kurdish fighters carried out an attack early Monday in northern Syria, killing at least five members of Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces, activists said.

The attack south of the northern town of Afrin, which is held by the Turkey-backed forces, took place shortly after midnight on Sunday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Defense Ministry confirmed that two Turkish soldiers were killed in an attack on Sunday by members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq. One of the soldiers died of his wounds in hospital.

The violence is the latest in a monthslong escalation between Turkey and Turkish-backed groups, and Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq. Ankara says the main Syrian Kurdish militia is allied to the outlawed Kurdish group. PKK has led an insurgency against Turkey since 1984 that has killed tens of thousands of people.

The Observatory, an opposition war monitor, said Monday’s attack was carried out by the Afrin Liberation Forces, a Kurdish faction allied with the main Kurdish militia in Syria known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG. The group has claimed scores of attacks against Turkey-backed Syrian fighters.

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