Turkey may open border to Syrian government-held region for aid, Turkish official says

Turkey may open border to Syrian government-held region for aid, Turkish official says

Turkey is discussing re-opening a border crossing into Syrian government territory, a Turkish official said on Friday, enabling earthquake aid to be sent directly to areas under President Bashar al-Assad’s control after a decade of enmity.

It is also looking at opening another crossing into Syria’s opposition-held Idlib region, the official said.

Turkey and Syria broke off diplomatic ties after Assad responded with force to a 2011 uprising against his rule which spilled into a civil war and drove millions of Syrians to seek refuge in Turkey.

President Tayyip Erdogan backed rebels fighting to topple Assad and sent Turkish troops into northern Syria. But after nearly 12 years of conflict he has suggested the two leaders could meet, and their defence ministers held talks in December.

The Turkish official said a border crossing from Turkey’s Hatay province into the Syrian government-controlled part of the Mediterranean province of Latakia could be reopened.

The two provinces on either side of the border were both heavily hit by Monday’s major earthquake, that has killed 21,000 people in the two countries.

“There are plans to open Yayladagi – Kasab border gate at first. Aid sent from there can directly go to areas under Syria government control,” the official said.

The official, who had knowledge of the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity, said another crossing could be opened to help transport aid into Syria’s opposition-held Idlib region.

“Discussions and planning continue to open another gate that will enable sending aid to Idlib and United Nations aid to reach areas completely flattened by the quake,” the official said.

There is currently only one border crossing, at Bab al-Hawa, open between Turkey and the opposition held northwest Syria. It was shut briefly after Monday’s quake, but reopened on Thursday.

The United Nations has described access through Bab al-Hawa as a “lifeline” for some 4 million people who it says relied on humanitarian assistance before the earthquake – and whose needs have only grown since it struck on Monday. [Reuters]

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