Russia Calls Daily Truce in Battered Syria Enclave

   •    27 Februari 2018 14:31 WIB
syria conflict
Russia Calls Daily Truce in Battered Syria Enclave
A Syrian man riding a bike along a street covered in debris from shelling in Arbin in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta on February 25, 2018. (Photo: AFP/ABDULMONAM EASSA)

Moscow: Russia called a daily "humanitarian pause" in Syria's Eastern Ghouta, bowing to pressure to halt the carnage in the rebel-held enclave where bombardments eased late Monday after hours of deadly raids.

A UN Security Council resolution for a 30-day truce was a dead letter since it was passed on Saturday, and Moscow, the Damascus regime's main backer, ended up setting its own terms to stem one of the worst episodes of bloodletting in Syria's seven-year-old conflict.

The United Nations, France and Germany had made pressing appeals for Russian President Vladimir Putin to demand its Damascus ally enforce a ceasefire, including in Eastern Ghouta where more than 500 civilians were killed last week.

Putin agreed to a five-hour daily window that would allow residents of the battered enclave east of the capital to emerge from their underground shelters.

"On the instructions of the Russian president, with the goal of avoiding civilian casualties in Eastern Ghouta, from February 27 -- tomorrow -- from 9:00 to 14:00, there will be a humanitarian pause," said Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

According to a statement sent to AFP, he said there should be similar pauses in the southern Al-Tanf border region and Rukban, near the Jordanian border.

Shoigu said "humanitarian corridors" would be opened to allow civilians to leave.

The public would be informed with leaflets and text messages, and buses and ambulances would be waiting at a crossing to evacuate the sick and wounded, Moscow said.

The rebel group Faylaq al-Rahman criticised the initiative.

"Forcing civilians to leave or face death under bombardment and siege constitutes a Russian crime," its spokesman Wael Alwan said on Twitter.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said "five hours is better than no hours, but we would like to see an end to all hostilities extended by 30 days, as stipulated by the Security Council."

"We will do our best... to deploy our trucks and humanitarian workers in this area," he added.

Washington pointed the finger sternly at Moscow, demanding it use its "influence" to completely halt the offensive.

"#Russia has the influence to stop these operations if it chooses to live up to its obligations under the #UNSC ceasefire," US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert tweeted.

"The United States calls for an immediate end to offensive operations and urgent access for humanitarian workers to treat the wounded and deliver badly needed humanitarian aid." (AFP)