UK makes it easier for aid agencies in Syria to avoid breaching sanctions

Aid convoy from Deir al-Zor province reaches earthquake-hit Jandaris
An aid convoy coming from the eastern Deir al-Zor province reaches the earthquake-hit rebel-held town of Jandaris in northwestern Syria, February 15, 2023. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

LONDON, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Britain said on Wednesday it was issuing two new licences to make it easier for aid agencies helping earthquake relief efforts to operate in Syria without breaching sanctions aimed at the government of President Bashar al-Assad and its backers.

The combined death toll in Turkey and Syria from last week's earthquake has climbed above 41,000, and millions are in need of humanitarian aid, with many survivors having been left homeless in near-freezing winter temperatures.

In Syria, relief efforts have been hampered by a civil war that has splintered the country and divided regional and global powers.

The British government said the temporary new licences would "strengthen the timely and effective delivery of relief efforts by removing the need for individual licence applications".

"UK sanctions do not target humanitarian aid, food, or medical supplies, but we recognise that the current requirements for individual licencing are not always practical during a crisis response," Minister of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell said in a statement.

The licences provide broad protection to organisations to allow them to operate by authorising activities which would have otherwise been prohibited.

Earlier Britain announced a further 25 million pounds ($30 million) of aid to help the earthquake recovery effort.

($1 = 0.8328 pounds)

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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