UNSC to vote on 30-day ceasefire in Syria

ANI | Updated: Feb 23, 2018 17:38 IST

Washington [US], Feb 23 (ANI): A day after Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution on the situation in Syria's conflicting region of Eastern Ghouta, the council will on Friday vote on the decree calling for a 30-day ceasefire in the war-torn nation, and allowing humanitarian aids be supplied to the area exhausted by five years of siege.

The resolution proposed by Kuwait and Sweden was on Thursday opposed by Russia, which offered amendments to it.

While Russia's UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia described civilian testimonies from Eastern Ghouta as "mass psychosis", Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator of the council Mark Lowcock said the situation in the region was "hell on earth".

A spokesperson for the council said around 40,000 civilians were trapped in the rebel-held area under constant bombardment and needed humanitarian relief and medical evacuations.

According to local doctors and monitoring groups, over 350 people have been killed in the battered suburb since February 18, marking one of the bloodiest periods of the country's seven-year civil war.

As fighting continued in the enclave, doctors said its healthcare system was pushed to the breaking point, with medical staff forced to prioritise resources and leave grievously wounded patients to die.

"Your obligations under the humanitarian law are just that, binding obligations," Lowcock said. "They are not favours to be traded in a game of death and destruction. Humanitarian access is not a nice-to-have. It is a legal requirement."

Deputy US ambassador to the UN Kelley Currie accused Russia of "appearing to be intent on blocking any meaningful effort" to halt the bombing and save lives. "The Assad regime wants to bomb or starve all of their opponents into submission," The Washington Post quoted her as telling the council.

Russia suspects the US wants to shift focus away from the necessity of starting the Geneva talks to launching plan "B" in the terror-hit country, the country's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

The minister said the resolution aimed to accuse Damascus of everything and to protect the militants.

Lavrov explained that Russian military forces working in Syria, particularly the Reconciliation Centre, have offered the militants to peacefully leave Eastern Ghouta, similar to the evacuation of militants with their families from Eastern Aleppo. "Jabhat al-Nusra and those who interact with them flatly refused this offer."

As a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow has used its veto power at the UNSC nine times to block resolutions critical of the Syrian government.

"We are ready to study the resolution that we were proposed to adopt, but the ceasefire regime does not cover the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and the groups that support them and regularly shell the residential neighbourhoods of Damascus," Sputnik quoted Lavrov as saying.

Robert Mardini, the top representative for the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Middle East, said he was "shocked" by the level of violence around Eastern Ghouta and called for immediate access to its civilians.

He told reporters in Beirut that the international aid agency had a humanitarian convoy at the ready but the Syrian authorities were yet to approve its passage, The Washington Post said.

Eastern Ghouta's rebels, a small number of them linked with Al-Qaeda, have launched attacks on Damascus neighbourhood, killing 16 people since Sunday and forcing schools to close.(ANI)

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