Unless the deadly violence in Aleppo subsides, the United Nations will be unable to carry out its humanitarian responsibilities to victims of bombardments, shelling and attacks against civilians, UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy stressed today.
“There has been no relief for the people of Aleppo; they continue to suffer from heavy air strikes and shelling,” he told reporters after a Humanitarian Taskforce meeting in Geneva. He acknowledged that eastern Aleppo is experiencing greater degrees of violence but emphasized that “both sides of the city, populated by civilians, are subjected to extremely difficult circumstances.”
These circumstances involve a “minimal” capacity to treat emergency cases. Hospitals are no longer able to operate at the same capacity as they were one week to ten days ago and medical evacuations have not yet been made.
The respective taskforces on humanitarian aid delivery and a wider ceasefire, created by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), have been meeting separately since early this year on a way forward in the crisis. Russia and the United States are the co-chairs of the taskforces and the ISSG, which also comprises the UN, the Arab League, the European Union and 16 other countries.
Mr. Ramzy briefly touched on the political situation between the US and Russia, noting that the UN Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, has been involved in “intense” discussions with all parties, particularly with regards to the humanitarian crisis and opportunities to reduce violence and ameliorate the political situation. He said Mr. de Mistura will attend the meeting in Lausanne this Saturday to continue efforts.
The only positive update that Mr. Ramzy was able to share was that the water supply in Aleppo, previously cut off, has been partially restored and that substation 1, Suleiman al-Halabi would be capable of providing water to eastern Aleppo, as long as fuel is provided. Repairs are under way to substation 2, and the UN is currently providing water to the western part of the city.
He further reported that the UN has received a partial approval from the Syrian Government for the October plan and that additional steps would be taken in order to ensure deliveries could be made.Meanwhile, the UN continues with air drops to Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah, but more efforts are required to meet civilian needs. Air drops, Mr. Ramzy noted, are costly and a last resort used only in extreme circumstances, as is the case in both cities.
The UN Deputy Special Envoy responded to questions about medical evacuations, reporting that more than 200 are in critical condition, including 400 children who require evacuation.
To a question about needing a ceasefire to evacuate, he replied: “There cannot be medical evacuations without a ceasefire. That is very clear. How long the ceasefire will need to be in place for the medical evacuations, this is one of the issues that [was under discussion during the meeting].”
Mr. de Mistura has made an appeal for the evacuation of Nusra fighters, the rebel group that was previously the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. Such an evacuation, said Mr. Ramzy, “would have a positive impact on humanitarian aid moving into eastern Aleppo.”
Al-Nusra has so far replied negatively to Mr. de Mistura’s appeals, but the Deputy Special Envoy revealed that the appeal has “found resonance in certain quarters,” and that they hope parties on the ground would push it forward.
Mr. Ramzy concluded the press conference by reiterating that humanitarian aid to Aleppo is contingent upon a ceasefire.