UN Security Council to vote Sunday on Aleppo observers

December 18, 2016 11:43 am
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Signs read “Massacre in Syria, our silence is an accomplice” and “Bachar to the International Criminal Court” during a protest in support of Aleppo’s population in Marseille, France © AFP / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT

, United Nations, United States, Dec 18 – The UN Security Council will vote Sunday on a French proposal to send observers to the flashpoint Syrian city of Aleppo to monitor evacuations and report on the protection of civilians, diplomats said.

The council will meet at 11:00 am (1600 GMT) to decide on the draft resolution, despite resistance from Russia, Syria’s ally and a veto-wielding Security Council member.

France circulated a draft text late Friday stating that the council is “alarmed” by the worsening humanitarian crisis in Aleppo and by the fact that “tens of thousands of besieged Aleppo inhabitants” are in need of aid and evacuation.

Thousands of trapped civilians and the last remaining opposition fighters in Aleppo were waiting for evacuations to resume on Saturday, a day after the operation was suspended by the Syrian government.

Syrian forces this week moved to assert full control over the east of the city, which had been held by opposition fighters since 2012.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre said the international presence would prevent Aleppo from turning into another Srebrenica, where thousands of Bosnian men and boys were massacred in 1995 when the town fell to Bosnian Serb forces during the Balkan wars.

“Our goal through this resolution is to avoid another Srebrenica in this phase immediately following the military operations,” Delattre told AFP.

Young Kosovars light a lantern in front of the Kosovo national theater during a protest in support to Aleppo’s population © AFP / Armend NIMANI

The draft resolution would request that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon quickly redeploy UN humanitarian staff already in Syria to the city “to carry out adequate, neutral monitoring, direct observation and to report on evacuations from besieged parts of Aleppo and protection of civilians inside Aleppo,” according to a copy of the text obtained by AFP.

Ban would also ensure the deployment of further staff, according to the draft text, which demands that Syria grant access to the observers.

The UN chief would report to the council within five days on whether access has been granted by the Syrian government, which has repeatedly blocked UN access during the nearly six-year war.

– Protecting hospitals –

Evacuations were expected to resume under a new deal that would allow civilians and fighters in other besieged towns to leave, according to rebel officials, according to rebel officials. The Damascus government made no announcements.

Syrian demonstrators in Paris protest near the Iranian embassy against Iranian involvement in the siege of Aleppo © AFP / MARTIN BUREAU

The draft resolution would seek to ensure the “voluntary, safe and dignified passage of all civilians” from Aleppo and other areas under UN monitoring and coordination, with priority given to the wounded and most vulnerable.

It demands the protection of all doctors, medical workers, hospitals and ambulances following reports that Syrian forces had bombed all of the medical facilities in Aleppo.

The text specifically mentions the need to protect the border hospitals of Atmeh, Darkoush, Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salamah, where many of the evacuees would be taken.

The council would also demand that urgent humanitarian aid reach Aleppo, which has been under siege since July.

US Ambassador Samantha Power said Friday that the observers on the ground would provide a “presence as protection.”

But Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he found elements of the French proposal “questionable,” including whether the observers could be quickly redeployed.

Ban has urged Syrian parties to resume the evacuation operation and allow civilians to leave safely, saying “Aleppo is now a synonym for hell.”

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