European Union presses Russia, Iran, Turkey over Syria ceasefire

European Union presses Russia, Iran, Turkey over Syria ceasefire

European Union presses Russia, Iran, Turkey over Syria ceasefire

Civilians have been forced to take shelter underground due to airstrikes conducted by Bashar al-Assad's regime and its supporter Russian Federation in Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus.

In the last two weeks, the regime has targeted 22 health centers, a mosque and an orphanage in Eastern Ghouta. Mark Lowcock, the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, addressing members of the UN Security Council.

The European Union´s top diplomat has written to the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey urging them to uphold a ceasefire in eastern Ghouta and allow aid into besieged areas.

"Over 580 people since 18 February are now reported to have been killed due to air- and ground-based strikes in eastern Ghouta, with well over 1,000 people injured", he said.

Lowcock said trucks loaded with supplies have been poised to go to 10 locations since Saturday - but there has been no access for humanitarian convoys, nor authorisation by the regime to go into the besieged areas. But no civilians have left, and no humanitarian aid has entered.

"When will your resolution be implemented?" he asked.

"Unless this changes", he declared, "we will soon see even more people dying from starvation and disease than from the bombing and the shelling".

Russian Federation has on several occasions asked the global community and its "Western colleagues" in the UNSC "so active on the Syrian trajectory" to evaluate the many attacks terrorists in Ghouta have conducted on its diplomatic mission over the past years. However, no civilians ventured towards the regime forces guarding the checkpoint.

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U.S. representative Kelley Currie accused the regime of violating the ceasefire, while Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia blamed the rebels. Russia, Syria and forces backed by Iran have made gains amid a massive bombardment of the insurgent-held suburb outside Damascus, while rebels and jihadis have shelled the nearby Syrian capital.

"Medical and other essential services are absent and access for humanitarian workers to the city remains precariously limited because the conditions are so risky", Lowcock said.

He said a meeting of U.N.' s humanitarian task force for Syria earlier Thursday discussed the issue of: "Can we sit down now with Russian Federation and others and see whether we can help make this pause/initiative meet humanitarian standards for a pause and a corridor".

This was despite a promise to halt the attacks on the eastern Ghouta region for 5 hours a day, starting on Tuesday.

United Nations satellite analysis has shown significant damage across much of eastern Ghouta since December 3, though the enclave has been subjected to regular bombardment throughout the conflict. He added that it is necessary to effectively neutralize the Nusra Front extremist group. The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

"Russia is daily undertaking efforts to ensure a cessation of hostilities, for humanitarian pauses to be established, to alleviate the plight of suffering civilians", he told council members.

On February 24, the United Nations Security Council voted in favour of a 30-day truce, which was violated only hours later.

FILE - Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia speaks to reporters after attending a Security Council meeting, August 9, 2017, at U.N. headquarters.

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