MOSCOW: Russia said on Thursday it was ready to halt fire for 48-hour periods in Aleppo from next week, following UN calls to extend humanitarian pauses to deliver aid.
“Russia’s defense ministry is ready to support the proposal by UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura regarding the introduction of weekly 48-hour ‘humanitarian pauses’ (in Aleppo),” defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
“We are ready to implement the first 48-hour ‘humanitarian pause’ to deliver humanitarian aid to Aleppo residents as a ‘pilot project’ already next week in order to ensure safe cargo deliveries to the city’s civilians.”
“Specific dates and times will be determined after information regarding the readiness of humanitarian convoys is received from the UN, as well as confirmation of safety guarantees from American partners,” he said.
Russia last week declared it would hold three-hour pause in artillery fire and airstrikes daily around the ravaged Syrian city but the UN decried this as insufficient to help the approximately 1.5 million people in Aleppo.
De Mistura had insisted on a 48-hour halt, saying the logistics along mined and destroyed roads made access impossible in just three hours and endangered aid workers.
The special envoy welcomed Russia’s support for his plan and called fur urgent action.
“Our plan is to collectively work out the operational details, and be ready for delivery as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.
He added that the UN was counting on Russia to help ensure “the adherence of the Syrian armed forces to the pause, once it comes into effect”.
He also urged “all those with access to or influence on the armed opposition, in particular the United States… to ensure that the armed opposition also respects the 48-hours humanitarian pause.”
The EU on Thursday called for an “immediate halt” to fighting, as the UN said aid was not reaching the besieged residents desperate for food and care.
“Not one single convoy in one month has reached any of the humanitarian besieged areas,” de Mistura earlier told reporters in Geneva.
Russia has been carrying out an air strike campaign in Syria since September to help troops loyal to long-time Moscow ally Bashar al-Assad fight rebels and Islamist jihadists in the country.
Overall, more than 290,000 people have been killed and more than half the population has been displaced since Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government protests that escalated into a brutal multi-front war.