May 4, 2014 / 10:28 AM / 5 years ago

Syria's Assad calls for aid cooperation without hurting "sovereignty"

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (C) meets with members of the Higher Committee for Relief in Damascus May 3, 2014, in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has said government agencies should increase cooperation on aid work but it must be done without “compromising national sovereignty”, state media reported.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last month none of the warring parties in Syria was meeting U.N. demands for aid access and demanded the Security Council take action on violations of international law.

Blaming “terrorists” for inflicting suffering on civilians, Assad was quoted by state news agency SANA late on Saturday as saying aid work was a top priority for the government and urged agencies to increase cooperation.

Assad stressed “the importance of delivering aid without delay and continuing field work with all concerned bodies domestically and abroad to ease relief operations without compromising national sovereignty”, SANA said.

Assad’s forces and to a lesser extent the insurgents trying to topple him have been accused of preventing food and medicine from reaching a quarter of a million people in besieged areas, to starve opponents into submission.

Syrian authorities often dictate how aid is distributed by U.N. agencies, who are legally obliged to work with national authorities, meaning more supplies go to government-controlled areas, aid workers say.

Syria’s war poses huge challenges for aid workers. The three-year-old conflict has killed over 150,000 people, forced 2.5 million to flee abroad, and put nine million people inside the country in need of aid and protection.

Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; editing by Andrew Roche

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