Syrian government approves 'in principle' U.N. aid request for besieged towns

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Monday the Syrian government has approved "in principle" a U.N. request for an aid delivery to the besieged Syrian towns of Madaya, al-Foua and Kefraya. Peace talks to end the five-year-old Syrian conflict are getting under way in Geneva and the Syrian opposition has repeatedly stressed that it will not participate in full discussions until all sieges are lifted. Madaya, near the border with Lebanon, has a population of around 40,000 and has been besieged by Syrian government-allied forces for around six months. Kefraya and al-Foua, in Idlib province in northwest Syria, contain around 12,500 people, according to U.N. estimates, and have been surrounded by insurgents since April 2015. There are about 15 siege locations in Syria, where 450,000 people are trapped, the United Nations says. "The U.N. will submit a detailed list of supplies and other details; and will include and reiterate the request for nutrition supplies and entry of nutrition/health assessment teams," the U.N Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokesman, Jenes Laerke, said on Monday. No time or date was given for the aid shipment by the OCHA. Kefraya, al-Foua and Madaya received synchronised aid deliveries from the United Nations, International Committee for the Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent in October 2015 and three times in January. According to U.N. research, up to 70 per cent of available farmland around Kefraya and al-Foua is now inaccessible because of danger from snipers, and "thousands of acres of wheat and barley have reportedly been burned in shell attacks on the fields". (Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Mark Heinrich)