Russia Proposes 48 Hour Ceasefire In Aleppo
NEW DELHI: Russia said that it will implement a 48 hour ceasefire in the battered city of Aleppo in order to allow delivery of humanitarian aid.
The Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov indicated that Russia will ensure that Syrian troops follow the ceasefire, provided that the United Nations can guarantee a similar pause by the “so-called moderate opposition.”
The spokesperson added that Russia’s other “condition” for implementing the temporary ceasefire was that separate routes be established for UN convoys to bring aid to rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo and to the western side, which is held by the government.
The United States, which has been pushing for a wider ceasefire, said it would not “turn up our nose” at the 48-hour offer. State Department spokesperson John Kirby however added that “we really believe it’s important to get beyond temporary, ephemeral and localized ceasefires.”
The Russian offer comes as photos and videos of a five year old boy injured in an airstrike in Aleppo went viral, dominating media headlines across the world. Russia’s previous proposal was three hour halts in fighting, with the UN saying this time period was insufficient. UN humanitarian chief, Stephen O’Brien, said, “When we’re offered three hours, then you have to ask: what could be achieved in those three hours?”
Hours before Russia announced the longer ceasefire proposal, Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, said he had suspended meetings of an international task force working on humanitarian issues in Geneva because “there was no sense in having a humanitarian meeting today unless we got some action.” “Tomorrow is World Humanitarian Day, and in Syria what we are hearing and seeing is only fighting, offensives, counter-offensives, rockets, barrel bombs, mortars, hellfire cannons, napalm, chlorine, snippers, airstrikes, suicide bombers,” de Mistura said.
Further explaining why he adjourned the humanitarian taskforce meeting, de Mistura said that it was to give a chance to prove that these meetings are indeed, as they have been in the past, meaningful for the Syrian people. He also said it was to display “respect” towards the World Humanitarian Day tomorrow and signal “deep unhappiness” about the lack of a pause that is preventing humanitarian aid from reaching anywhere in Syria, except Deir ez-Zor, where the World Food Programme (WFP) has conducted airdrops 100 times.
The UN has repeatedly said that the escalation in fighting in August has prevented aid from reaching any of the 18 besieged areas and cities in Syria. Aleppo, however, is particularly affected as two million civilians, including 10,000 children, remain trapped as fighting rages. About two weeks ago, insurgents embedded in the eastern part of Aleppo broke a stalemate against Syrian military forces and their Russian allies, effectively blocking government controlled western Aleppo and isolating the entire city. Since then, Russia and Syria have stepped up air bombardments of insurgent-held areas in the battered city.
The UN has welcomed Russia’s proposal for a longer ceasefire, with de Mistura issuing a statement saying that the UN humanitarian team "is now set to mobilize itself to respond to this challenge." "Our plan is to collectively work out the operational details, and be ready for delivery as soon as possible,” the statement added.
"Trucks with food, water and medicine are ready to move immediately and ambulances to evacuate urgent medical cases are on standby," said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.