Russia has agreed to a 48-hour humanitarian ceasefire in the divided Syrian city of Aleppo to allow aid deliveries, but security guarantees are awaited from other parties on the ground, UN officials said on Thursday.
The United Nations has been pushing for a weekly 48-hour pause in fighting in Aleppo to alleviate suffering for some 2 million people, with major powers backing opposing sides in Syria’s five-year-old civil war.
“We have…agreement now from the Russian Federation for the 48-hour pause, we’re waiting (for) it from the other actors on the ground. That has taken more time frankly than I thought was needed,” said Jan Egeland, who chairs the weekly UN humanitarian task force, told a news briefing in Geneva.
Egeland’s boss, U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, said: “But we are ready, trucks are ready and they can leave anytime we get that message.”
He refused to take questions, but his comments appeared to refer to rebel groups supported by Western and Gulf powers opposed to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose main external supporter is Russia.
On Aug. 19, the main umbrella group for the Syrian opposition cautiously welcomed a proposal for a weekly 48-day truce in Aleppo to allow aid to reach besieged areas, provided this would be monitored by the United Nations.
De Mistura has been trying to bring government and opposition representatives back to the negotiating table this month to revive a shattered ceasefire and end the war. He said he awaited Friday’s meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov in Geneva before commenting further.
“Those meetings taking place outside of this (UN) office here in Geneva are going to have an impact certainly on the way we will be (working) and I plan to present what are the political initiatives of the U.N. in order to relaunch the political process on Syria,” de Mistura said.
Egeland said the UN relief plan for Aleppo entailed simultaneous deliveries of food to the rebel-held east and government-controlled west, as well as “cross-line repair” of the electrical system in the “disputed south” that powers water pumping stations serving 1.8 million people.
“They are united in this longing for water and this suffering without water,” Egeland said. “So we have now everything ready, we have discussed how the trucks will be sealed, how they be monitored, how we can guarantee that it is only humanitarian supplies going into these combat zones.”
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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