UN calls for urgent ceasefire in Aleppo to help civilians

UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has postponed a humanitarian meeting in protest as humanitarian aid fails to reach besieged areas in Syrian city of Aleppo.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, speaks to the media during a news conference after the meeting of the International Syria Support Group's Humanitarian Access Task Force at the European headquarters of the UN in Geneva, Switzerland.

The UN’s Syria envoy on Thursday criticised the warring parties in Syria for preventing humanitarian aid from reaching besieged areas, reiterating a call for a 48-hour ceasefire.

Staffan de Mistura said there was "no sense" in having Thursday’s humanitarian meeting only one day before the World Humanitarian Day.

The UN envoy spoke after suspending the weekly meeting of the humanitarian task force "as a sign of deep unhappiness," pointing out that convoys had been unable to reach parts of war-torn Syria for a month, Aleppo in particular.

"Not one single convoy in one month has reached any of the humanitarian besieged areas not one single convoy," de Mistura, who chairs the task force, told reporters. "And why? Because of one thing: Fighting."

Civilians walk past damaged shop as they flee towards the safer parts of Manbij city, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 10, 2016.

He said he insists on having a 48-hour ceasefire, starting with Aleppo that is split into opposition and government controlled areas and has become the focus of fighting in Syria's five-year-long civil war.

"That would require some heavy lifting from not only the two co-chairs [Russia and the United States] but also those who have an influence on those  who are fighting on the ground," Russia and the United States back opposite sides in the civil war.

Hours after de Mistura's call, the Russian Defence Ministry displayed willingness to cooperate, noting that they expect the same "from US in 'moderate opposition' zones."

"The Special Envoy welcomes the Russian Federation statement, and the United Nations humanitarian team is now set to mobilize itself to respond to this challenge," de Mistura said in a statement.

Last Tuesday the UN once again called for an urgent ceasefire in Aleppo, where it said two million people lack access to clean water, putting people – especially children – at risk of disease.

The European Union's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, also called for an immediate halt to fighting in Aleppo to allow for medical evacuations, aid deliveries and necessary repairs to water and electricity infrastructure.

Since the beginning of the year, the UN and its Red Cross partners have delivered aid to nearly 1.3 million Syrians living in areas defined as besieged or hard-to-reach.

But the movement of convoys has primarily been hampered by restrictions imposed by the Assad regime.

The Syrian opposition has said it wants to see a credible pause in violence, as well as improved humanitarian aid access, before peace talks can resume.

Some 590,200 people are now living in besieged areas of Syria, according to UN figures.

More than a quarter of a million people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced across the war-torn country.

TRTWorld and agencies