The Syrian government has agreed to let aid workers into the country, the UN says, even as the government of Bashar al-Assad expels foreign diplomats.It would be the first time humanitarian workers - aside from the International Committee of the Red Cross - have been granted permission to enter Syria.
The workers will initially be based in just four cities hard hit by the fighting: Homs, Deraa, Idlib, and Deir Ezzour.
UN teams already have been sent to scout those areas, said John Ging, director of the co-ordination and response unit at the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
"Whether this is a breakthrough or not will be evident in the coming days and weeks, and it will be measured not in rhetorics, not in agreements, but in action on the ground," he said.
But despite the humanitarian opening, Syria has also decided to declare 17 foreign diplomats unwelcome in the country.
The ambassadors of the United States, United Kingdom, France and Turkey, among others, were declared personae non gratae.
Canada, Italy, Spain and various embassy staff members from Belgium, Bulgaria and Germany were also named in the foreign ministry's statement.