UN envoy Staffan de Mistura symbolically ended a meeting on Syria after saying no aid convoys reached besieged cities. He said the time had come for Russia and the United States to both push for an Aleppo ceasefire.
Citing “deep unhappiness,” UN envoy Staffan de Mistura abruptly cut short Thursday’s meeting of the UN’s humanitarian task force for Syria because new fighting in the five-year war has impeded aid convoys to the more than 590,000 people living in besieged cities and towns. De Mistura said convoys had not reached any besieged areas of Syria in August and that Madaya, Zabadani, Foah and Kafraya had had no aid for 110 days.
“Not one single convoy in one month has reached any of the humanitarian besieged areas,” de Mistura told reporters on Thursday. “Not one single convoy.”
De Mistura has attempted to increase pressure on the United States and Russia, the 17-nation task force’s co-chairs, to help produce a 48-hour ceasefire in the northern city of Aleppo in the face of a recent government offensive. He said he symbolically suspended the weekly meeting of the task force after only eight minutes because dozens of UN priority areas for aid shipments had not received support for weeks.
“I again insist on behalf of the secretary-general of the UN and of all the Syrian people (on having) a 48-hour pause in Aleppo to start with,” de Mistura said in Geneva. “That would require some heavy lifting from not only the two co-chairs, but also those who have an influence on those who are fighting on the ground.”
Aleppo, split into rebel and government-controlled areas, has become the current focal point of the Syrian war. In the city, up to 2 million people on both sides lack access to clean water after bombing runs, conducted mostly by Russia and the regime.
The only UN aid to reach Syria this month has come in the form of World Food Program airdrops to Deir El-Zour, de Mistura said. That has helped the more than 100,000 people taking refuge in areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces amid a siege on the city by the “Islamic State.”
“I decided to use my privilege as chair to declare that there was no sense to have a humanitarian meeting today unless we got some action on the humanitarian side in Syria,” de Mistura said. “What we are hearing and seeing is only fighting, offensives, counteroffensives, rockets, barrel bombs, mortars, hellfire cannons, napalm, chlorine, snipers, airstrikes, suicide bombers.”
De Mistura said he planned to reconvene the humanitarian task force next week and believed that Russia and the United States still sought a nonmilitary solution to Syria’s conflict, which has left up to 290,000 people dead.
mkg/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)