May 26, 2015 / 12:04 PM / 4 years ago

U.N. agency urges truce in Syria fighting during harvesting

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A U.N. agency appealed on Tuesday for a pause in the fighting raging across Syria so that farmers can harvest their crops in a country wracked by hunger and displacement.

Syria’s 2015 harvest could be larger than those of the last two years, and farmers need safe access to their crops, the head of the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) said.

“Without a humanitarian pause by all sides, providing unhindered access to Syrian food and opening up corridors for transport, people will still go hungry, despite a good harvest, and prices for food will remain high,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said in a statement.

Four years into Syria’s civil war, more than 220,000 people have been killed and a third of the population has been made homeless.

It is unlikely that the government and various rebel groups will agree to a truce in the contested agricultural plains between Damascus, the capital, and Homs, a U.N. official told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on condition of anonymity.

But the WFP is working behind the scenes to put pressure on the countries backing the government and various rebel groups to allow farmers to do their work.

“If Iran (which backs the government) had a word with some of their people, and the U.S. (which backs some rebel groups) had a chat with other people, then maybe something would happen,” the official said.

Allowing ordinary people access to food could be beneficial to all sides in the conflict, the official said.

Aside from gentle nudging behind the scenes, the United Nations has no power to compel the warring parties to change their behavior, the official added.

Reporting By Chris Arsenault; Editing by Tim Pearce

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