UN Security Council Urges Implementation of Syria Ceasefire

UN Security Council Urges Implementation of Syria Ceasefire

Wednesday, 7 March, 2018 - 19:00
The UN Security Council called for a ceasefire to be implemented in Eastern Ghouta. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The United Nations Security Council urged on Wednesday for the implementation of a ceasefire in Syria amid concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the war-torn country.

“The cessation of hostilities was discussed. The Security Council reiterated its call for implementation of resolution 2401,” council president for March Netherlands UN Ambassador Karel van Oosterom said.

The 15-member council unanimously demanded a 30-day truce across Syria on February 24.

He was speaking after the Security Council was briefed behind closed doors on the situation in Syria at the request of Britain and France.

France and Britain requested the urgent meeting as the Syrian regime sent militias as reinforcements to the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta and heavy airstrikes battered key towns.

The council heard a briefing via videoconference from UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura who offered to help broker a deal with Russia to allow fighters in Eastern Ghouta to leave, according to a diplomat.

The council diplomat who attended the meeting said there was strong support for the envoy's offer to help negotiate the departure of the fighters in a bid to halt the violence.

Three armed groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad's forces have written to the Security Council offering to disassociate themselves from extremists and help organize their expulsion from Eastern Ghouta.

Council members also discussed plans for a new aid convoy to travel to the main town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta on Thursday to complete the delivery of aid that was cut short during shelling on Monday.

Nearly half of the food carried on the 46-truck convoy which had been approved by the Syrian regime could not be delivered and part of the medical and health supplies were removed from trucks by Syrian authorities, the UN said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called for the aid convoy to have safe access to Eastern Ghouta.

Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog, who negotiated the ceasefire resolution along with Kuwait, said ahead of the meeting that implementation of the truce remains "totally and completely inadequate."

"So far we see minimal signs only from the Syrian authorities to implement the resolution and we are very, very disappointed about that," Skoog told reporters.

Backed by Russia, the council unanimously adopted on February 24 a resolution demanding the 30-day cessation of hostilities to allow deliveries of humanitarian aid and evacuations of the sick and wounded.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 800 civilians -- including at least 177 children -- have been killed since Russia-backed Syrian forces launched an assault on the besieged enclave outside Damascus on February 18.

Inside Eastern Ghouta on Wednesday, AFP correspondents heard warplanes carrying out a barrage of strikes on the battleground towns.

Residents in Douma were driving frantically through the streets to escape from bombing zones, with cars brushing by each other in close calls.

Wednesday's raids came despite a daily "humanitarian pause" announced by Russia last week that is meant to bring calm to Eastern Ghouta between 9:00 am (0700 GMT) and 2:00 pm each day.

During that pause, Moscow said, it would guarantee safe passage to civilians and rebels wishing to flee the enclave.

No Syrian civilians are known to have used the "humanitarian corridor".

More than 340,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in Syria since the civil war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests.

Most Western countries have cut off diplomatic ties with Syria, but some of their officials have continued to make trips to Damascus.

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman condemned a visit by six members of the far-right AfD party to Syria, which has pushed a bid for Berlin to start sending refugees back to the war-ravaged country.

Editor Picks