Russian Federation violating duty to halt Syria's use of chemical weapons

Saturday, 03 Mar, 2018

Before the meeting began, French ambassador Francois Delattre recalled that the rebels in Ghouta had said Tuesday they were ready to observe a ceasefire, but the Syrian regime has given no sign it is ready to do the same.

Putin, speaking at a news conference alongside Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, said Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had helped broker the evacuation. A real truce would mean that people can leave their homes, buy food and drink and that humanitarian aid would be able to come in, but that hasn't happened. No aid was reported to have entered Ghouta.

The area has been under a suffocating siege by government forces and a Russian bombing campaign since 2013, in an attempt to drain the armed opposition operating there. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that his patience with militant attacks is not indefinite as terrorist groups stationed in the Damascus suburbs continue to shell the capital indiscriminately while the U.S. representative at United Nations has accused Russia and Syrian of violating ceasefire. Rebels denied the claim, and said fear of the Syrian government was preventing people from leaving Ghouta.

"This is cynical, callous and in flagrant defiance of the demands of [Resolution] 2401", said US envoy Kelley Currie.

The three main armed groups inside the territory, which lies within mortar range of Damascus, said they wanted more worldwide guarantees.

U.S. representative at UN Currie described Russia's five-hour "humanitarian pause" as "cynical, callous and in flagrant defiance of the demands of (UNSC resolution) 2401". But no civilians were seen venturing towards the regime forces guarding the checkpoint, where large portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Putin could be seen side-by-side.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday of the 601 civilians, killed in mostly air strikes, 147 were children.

A Syrian man walks past destroyed buildings in the rebel-held town of Hamouria.

While Russia and the Syrian government say they are aiming at armed groups, who it refers to as "terrorists", civilian neighbourhoods and sources of livelihood have been attacked frequently.

"Everything is being done" to ensure the effective operation of the five-hour daily pauses in eastern Ghouta, he said, blaming militants for using the pauses on Tuesday and Wednesday "to stage an onslaught".

State-run Syrian Arab News Agency, or SANA, said Thursday that a civilian was wounded by a mortar shell fired by the insurgents in eastern Ghouta at the Bab al-Salam area in the old city of Damascus.

Residents of Syria's Eastern Ghouta are "mocking" a so-called ceasefire in the area, as bombardments by the Syrian government and their principal ally, Russia, continue, according to doctors and local activists.

"It is a question life and death - if ever there was a question of life and death - we need a 30-day cessation of hostilities in Syria as the Security Council demands", said Jens Laerke, spokesman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance. Mark Lowcock, the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, addressing members of the UN Security Council.

Both Russia and Syria charge that the region, under siege for the past three years, is occupied by "terrorists" and attacks have continued.

International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet said any evacuation needed deeper coordination. "According to updated information, four people were killed at that spontaneous protest", Zolotukhin said.

Wood, the US envoy, did not comment on the actual United Nations report, but he told reporters in Geneva, "Clearly there has been a history of a relationship between North Korea and Syria with regard to missile activity, chemical weapons components".