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France, Russia Jointly Sending Medical Aid To Embattled Damascus Suburb

A child is treated in a hospital in Douma, in Syria's eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus.

France and Russia will jointly deliver humanitarian aid to the former Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, the two countries announced in a joint statement.

A Russian cargo plane arrived late on July 20 in Chateauroux in central France to load 50 tons of medical equipment and essential goods provided by France, to be transported to the former rebel area which was recaptured by Syrian troops this spring.

Undertaken as part of a UN Security Council resolution, "the aim of this project is to enable civilian populations better access to aid," the statement said. It is the first joint humanitarian aid operation between Russia and a western country.

The French foreign ministry said that the cargo plane is headed towards Russia's Hmeimim air base in western Syria and the aid will be distributed on July 21 under the supervision of the UN's humanitarian aid office.

The aid aims at treating 500 seriously wounded people and 15,000 others with more minor injuriies.

"Humanitarian assistance is an absolute priority and must be distributed in accordance with principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality ,and independence across all Syrian territory without exception, where international humanitarian law must be fully respected," the joint statement said.

The French ministry said it secured "guarantees" from Russia that the Syrian government would not obstruct distribution of the aid, and that it would not be misappropriated or diverted for political purposes.

Damascus regained control of Eastern Ghouta, a rebel enclave on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, in April, ending a five-year siege.

More than 1,700 civilians were killed during the Syrian army's operation there. According to the Russian military, more than 160,000 people, both military and civilians, were evacuated from the region.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters