Russia Resumes Aleppo Bombings After Brief Pause
By VOA News December 09, 2016
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that Russia and Syrian government forces would continue their bombing raids in Aleppo until rebels vacated the city.
"After a humanitarian pause, [the strikes] have resumed and will continue for as long as the bandits are still in Aleppo," Lavrov told reporters while attending a security meeting in Hamburg, Germany.
Lavrov's comments came a day after he said the Syrian government had stopped all active military operations in eastern Aleppo. When asked about the seemingly contradictory statements Friday, Lavrov said: "I did not say that the military operations were completely stopped. I said they were suspended for a certain time to allow civilians wishing to leave to do so."
"Everyone understands it, our American partners understand it," he added.
Lavrov said that he hoped there could be a permanent agreement reached soon, but that American diplomats were exhibiting "strange" behavior. He accused them of backtracking on a proposal that would have allowed rebels to leave Aleppo if they laid down their weapons.
"If the American experts do not change their mind again as they did a few days ago ... then there is a good chance for an agreement on a final settlement of the situation in Aleppo," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed Friday that U.S. and Russian officials would meet in Geneva on Saturday, along with U.N. officials, to discuss the situation in Aleppo. Speaking in Paris, Kerry said the destruction in Aleppo was the worst "since World War II itself."
"We are working hard with people that we even have disagreements with, in order to see if we can find a way in the name of humanity and decency to be able to protect those lives," Kerry said.
At the U.N., U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power called on the warring parties to "remember their humanity" and allow safe passage for civilians who want to leave.
The General Assembly was to meet later Friday to vote on a nonbinding resolution calling for an immediate end to sieges and a cessation of hostilities, as well as access for humanitarian aid convoys.
The assembly has been seeking ways to circumvent the divided 15-nation Security Council.
In the latest show of disunity, on Monday, Russia and China blocked adoption of resolution calling for a seven-day cease-fire to get aid in and the sick and wounded out.
"Well, sadly, I suspect it will be too little, too late," British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters
"But what I hope that it will do is to demonstrate that there is a moral majority here," he said. "There are states who are not on the Security Council but have very strong views about peace and security and who are distressed that through a series of vetoes, the Security Council has failed to provide the unity necessary to change the situation in Syria."
A General Assembly resolution cannot force action, but it would send a message of moral outrage from the international community.
Tens of thousands of civilians are thought to be trapped in eastern Aleppo despite a surge of refugees during the past two weeks heading for the relative safety of government-controlled western districts.
Monitors last week estimated that 18,000 civilians in the east had moved into western neighborhoods, and more than 9,000 others into a Kurdish-controlled district.
VOA's Steve Herman and Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.
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