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UN to use Russian plane for Syria airdrop

February 19, 2016 at 9:19 am

The United Nations’ food agency is planning to use a Russian civilian plane to drop food aid in Syria, a UN spokesman said Thursday.

Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York that as part of contingency planning, the World Food Programme (WFP) was “considering using a plane operated by one of WFP’s registered service providers, which is in this case a Russian contractor”.

The contractor previously worked with the agency on airdrops in South Sudan, Dujarric said. He did not provide the name of the contractor.

Earlier on Thursday, a UN humanitarian task force chief said the UN planned to begin dropping much-needed food to 200,000 people besieged by Daesh terrorists in Syria’s Deir al-Zor city.

Speaking in Geneva a day after relief convoys reached five besieged Syrian towns, Jan Egeland said the WFP had a “concrete plan of” making the Deir al-Zor airdrop.

The UN says more than 400,000 Syrians live in besieged areas with little or no access to basic supplies amid a civil war that has claimed more than 250,000 lives.

Asked whether using a Russian plane would raise concern about the impartiality of UN aid operations, Dujarric said:

“These are civilian contractors. We employ different civilian contractors from different member states. We would expect them to live up to the terms of their contract and seek only instructions from the United Nations”.

Russia is one of the main backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has targeted moderate opposition forces to prop up its ally in Damascus.

“The WFP’s planning would be a high altitude airdrop which would demand some very specific skills and experience in terms of doing these kinds of airdrops. That’s why they are considering using one of their contractors which has worked for them in South Sudan,” Dujarric said.