Syria’s government has extended for three months the permission it has given to distribute humanitarian aid to rebel-held areas after the February 6 earthquake from Turkey through two border crossings, the United Nations announced Saturday.

Following an urgent request as the permit expired yesterday, Damascus “allowed the UN to continue using the Bab al-Salamah and al-Rai border crossings for an additional three months,” Office spokeswoman Eri Kaneko told AFP. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The decision was confirmed by the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations. Damascus “decided to extend the permission it had given (…) for an additional period of three months”, so it will expire “on August 13”, Bassam Shabagh explained via Twitter.

This decision “is based on (the government of) Syria’s desire to increase stability and improve the living standards and humanitarian situation of all Syrians” and was taken in the context of “its efforts to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to all those who need it” , throughout Syria,” he added.

In 2014, a UN Security Council resolution approved a mechanism to use four border crossings on the Turkey-Syria border to distribute humanitarian aid to rebel-held areas in northern and northwestern Syria, home to more than 4 million people.

But under pressure from Moscow, only the Bab al-Hawa crossing remained operational after 2020.

After the February 6 earthquake that caused massive destruction in southern Turkey and northern Syria, NGOs and Syrian opposition criticized the slowness of aid deliveries from the UN in these areas, where the population was already experiencing difficult conditions before the tragedy.

A week later, Damascus agreed to let the UN use two more border crossings on the border with Turkey to deliver tents, blankets and cholera kits. The license expired yesterday, Saturday, May 13.

According to the UN, Syria will need at least $15 billion to recover from the earthquake, which killed about 6,000 people on its territory — not counting the roughly 50,000 dead in Turkey.

Syria has been ravaged by war that broke out in 2011, with at least half a million dead, millions of internally displaced people and refugees, and massive destruction of infrastructure. Some sectors of the country still remain today outside the control of the government.