France warns of "humanitarian tragedy" in Aleppo

Syria – Humanitarian situation in Aleppo – Speech by the Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations – Arria-formula meeting (excerpts)

New York, 8 August 2016

1/. (…) Since the end of April, the regime and its supporters have put an end to the hopes raised by February’s truce, by embarking on a bloody offensive of Aleppo just when the inhabitants were beginning to resume their normal lives.

2./ Aleppo is therefore plunging, before our eyes, into a humanitarian tragedy. (…)

The intolerable figures and pictures we are seeing give us an idea of the atrocity being experienced every day in Aleppo, the unbelievable violence that only heightens despair and fuels radicalization.

Today, Aleppo is in danger of becoming the new Homs: a city on its knees, a city famished and destroyed.

3/. And the Syrian regime has chosen an extreme escalation. It’s a road to nowhere; it is even doomed to failure, as the military developments at the weekend also showed. But we must utterly condemn this extreme military escalation, in which the regime has supporters, and also expose the regime’s primary responsibility and its cynicism: on the pretext of the fight against terrorism, the regime is seeking to eliminate the opposition. It’s destroying maternity units, hospitals, schools, refugee camps and districts held by the opposition. It has constantly violated international humanitarian law, the resulutions of our Security Council, and the most fundamental principles of humanity. It hasn’t stopped bombing civilians. On the contrary, the desire to surround and starve Aleppo has been manifested in an intensification of strikes targeting vital infrastructure, and particularly hospitals, as we saw this morning.

And elsewhere in Syria, the situation is hardly any better: the regime’s bombs are raining down in particular on the area of Idlib, with the possible use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs.

4/. So in order to prevent these intolerable deaths, the past months should have been devoted to the search for a lasting truce, to full and complete humanitarian access and to a political transition on 1 August. What I’m saying to you isn’t France’s position, it’s the commitments of the whole international community, it’s what Security Council Resolution 2254 says. And yet the regime has been constantly violating those commitments.

5/. France steadfastly calls for international humanitarian law to be strictly respected and therefore, once again, for the sieges to be lifted immediately and for swift, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to Aleppo’s men, women and children to be established. In the case of Aleppo, there is nothing humanitarian about the so-called “corridors” proposed by Russia. They could have been described as such if they scrupulously respected international obligations and principles on humanitarian access and on the cessation of hostilities, as the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has pointed out. At this stage, their sole aim was to step up the evacuation of the city so as to bring it to its knees more effectively. All this contradicts Security Council resolutions. It is humanitarian aid that must enter, not civilians who must leave.

Twenty years after the siege of Sarajevo, the Security Council cannot stand by as such barbaric tactics recur. (…) There will be no long-term political solution, there will be no effective fight against terrorism, as long as Syrian civilians are being massacred. Aleppo could become the graveyard of the Vienna process.

Any proposed half-measures, any offer which doesn’t lead to a possible lasting truce and immediate, full and unfettered access to all Syrians, to encourage a transition to which the international community has committed itself in order to end the conflict, is only derisory in view of the situation. And we solemnly appeal to the regime’s supporters and the members of the Security Council and of the International Syria Support Group who have influence over the regime to shoulder their responsibilities to this end.

Thank you./.

Syria – Situation in Aleppo – Interview given by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to France Info

Nairobi, 1 August 2016


THE MINISTER – The current result of the military solution is an ever-increasing number of civilian victims. Now it’s the siege of Aleppo, with the risk of a humanitarian disaster.

Q. – Are you very worried about the siege of Aleppo?

THE MINISTER – Yes, I’m very worried. It’s clear that the negotiations, under the auspices of Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations Special Envoy, can’t resume if there are so many ongoing human tragedies, particularly in Aleppo. If the Russians, who have the means to put pressure on the Damascus regime and who, with the Americans, co-chair the [International] Syria Support Group – that’s why I’ve written to them both – really want the peace process to resume, they must shoulder their responsibilities on Aleppo and not make do with half-measures, because the humanitarian corridors are something of a trap for those poor inhabitants of Aleppo, who then leave, and then remain stuck at the Turkish border.

Once again we’re witnessing a major humanitarian disaster that is also hindering the resumption of the political process, which has now been suspended. The Geneva meeting must be held. And you can see the delay there has been: 1 August was the date when the interim authorities should have been put in place; we’re a long way from that, but even so, we mustn’t lose sight of this goal.

This goal is essential, and conditions must be created to this end. The conditions are, firstly, a signal that the parties around the table are in good faith and that sufficient pressure is being put on Bashar al-Assad’s regime to ensure, of course, that the planes stop firing and the barrel bombs stop falling on Aleppo. It’s essential – otherwise there will be no trust. And the moderate opposition is ready to return to the negotiating table – that’s been confirmed – with concrete proposals that are realistic and pragmatic. It’s about getting back to a political process, a peace processs. It’s not all or nothing, but it’s not possible if people continue being bombed. With the bombing, hundreds of thousands of people will again be forced to flee. So that’s even more refugees than are already massed in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan or have already fled to Europe.

Q. – Is there a real desire to achieve an outcome on the part of Washington and Moscow?

THE MINISTER – What I’ve told them both – and this was also the purpose of my letter, which is why I’ve made it public – is to negotiate and do the maximum to recreate the conditions for a peace process. But in order to achieve that, you can’t close your eyes to Aleppo, where there are still 200,000 to 300,000 people in appalling conditions. So you don’t achieve a political agreement by saying: “that’s it, the peace process has restarted, and we’ve closed our eyes to a tragic humanitarian situation”.

I also think that, if it were like that, not only would it be morally and politically unacceptable, it would also be ineffective, because the moderate opposition would see it as a pretext not to come to the negotiating table, at a time when the peace process must resume through negotiation. I very much want to see that. I’m issuing an alarm call. I’m saying to both the Americans and the Russians: “you have the means – and the Russians in particular, because they have means of putting pressure on the Damascus regime – to ensure that a strong signal is given and that, in concrete terms, the situation on the ground in Aleppo improves”./.

Published on 11/08/2016

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