U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on all parties in Syria to implement a nationwide cease-fire, as the U.N. Security Council prepares to meet Wednesday to discuss the ignored 30-day halt in fighting it demanded in a resolution nearly two weeks ago.
The cease-fire’s failure prompted Britain and France to request the closed door meeting.
The council’s resolution was meant to give humanitarian workers a chance to bring food and medical supplies to areas where seven years of conflict has left millions of Syrians badly in need of help.
An attempt Monday by the United Nations, Syrian Arab Red Crescent and International Red Cross to deliver aid in the eastern Ghouta area had to be abandoned due to continued violence. The agencies also reported the Syrian government blocked rescue workers from loading most of the medical supplies they had planned to transport.
“The Secretary-General commends the courage of all humanitarians working tirelessly to ensure that people in need throughout Syria receive life-saving humanitarian aid,” Guterres spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
Guterres said there is a particular need to ensure that Thursday’s planned deliveries to the Douma part of eastern Ghouta go through, “as previously agreed with the Syrian authorities.”
In the resolution, the council expressed “outrage at the unacceptable violence” in several parts of the country as well as at the “insufficient implementation” of seven of its resolutions regarding Syria dating back to 2014.
Heavy fighting continued Tuesday in eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held suburb of Syria’s capital that government forces have held under siege since 2013. It is one of the last remaining areas under opposition control near Damascus.
A Russian plane crashed in Syria as it was attempting to land, killing 39 Russian servicemen. Russia’s defense ministry said the crash was caused by technical error and was not shot down.
Earlier Tuesday, Russia’s defense ministry said that Syrian rebels, in addition to civilians, are free to use evacuation corridors to leave eastern Ghouta.
A ministry statement said the fighters could take their guns and their families, but did not specify where they would go.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Turkey James Jeffrey, a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told VOA Russia’s offers is a continuation of a pattern it has followed since joining the conflict in 2015.
“After much delay and hesitation, it accepts the U.N. resolution for a cease-fire, then it doesn’t adhere to the cease-fire while the Syrians claim we’re just fighting terrorists. Then it does these peace corridors to allow them to come out so that they don’t have to go in and do the ground fighting because the truth is the Syrian-Iranian forces do not have a lot of infantry who are reliable,” Jeffrey said.
Syrian forces backed by Russia have been pressing an offensive to retake control of eastern Ghouta, and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the pro-government side now controls one-third of the territory. More than 800 people have been killed during three weeks of fighting.