WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government on Sunday called on Syria and all parties to immediately grant humanitarian access to all those in need across the country after Monday’s earthquake and major aftershocks that have killed at least 33,000 people.

“All humanitarian assistance must be permitted to move through all border crossings, and distribution of aid must be permitted to all affected areas without delay,” a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said.

Washington called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to grant immediate access to humanitarian assistance to all those in need, without exception, and urged him to follow through on a blanket authorization for humanitarian assistance deliveries.

A United Nations spokesperson on Sunday said earthquake aid from government-held parts of Syria into opposition-controlled territory has been held up by “approval issues” with one hardline group. The issue poses an added challenge for aid workers trying to reach the northern regions affected by Monday’s earthquake.

Of the 3,500 deaths so far reported in Syria the bulk occurred in the northwest, in territory largely held by Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

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“The United States stands by the Syrian people during this humanitarian crisis,” the spokesperson said.

“President Biden was clear when he said the United States was prepared to provide any and all types of aid to the people of Syria, and we continue to follow through on that commitment.”

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Diane Craft)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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