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UN hopeful of humanitarian pause in Aleppo fighting

Free Syrian Army fighters- file photo

The United Nations said on Thursday that intensive diplomacy was going on to try to agree a humanitarian pause in the fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo, and it hoped to see an agreement for a comprehensive humanitarian plan in the next few days.

The battle for eastern Aleppo, pitting besieged rebels against Syrian, Russian and Iranian-backed forces, has erupted amid a diplomatic vacuum and no sign of a breakthrough in a US-Russian efforts for a deal to unlock a new round of peace talks.

“There is still time, we cannot give up hope. Bear with us and I think in next few days there might be some movement,” UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy told reporters in Geneva.

Ramzy said US-Russian negotiations were ongoing and the United Nations was still committed to its goal of holding a new round of talks between the Syrian government and opposition towards the end of August.

The United States and Russia were in intensive discussions to “shore up” Syria’s collapsed nationwide truce and their military experts were still trying to agree a cooperation plan “that would unlock the entire solution”, Ramzy said.

“We continue to believe that no one has an interest in further escalating the military situation in Aleppo in a way that would impede humanitarian aid and also impede chances of political settlement,” he said.

“We need to do something about Aleppo and very quickly. There is still a chance for that in the next days.”

He was speaking after a weekly meeting of the Syria humanitarian taskforce, and a week after Russia wrongfooted the UN by unveiling a plan for humanitarian corridors and the evacuation of Aleppo’s civilians.

“We are in intensive discussions with the Russian Federation and the government of Syria to ensure that the civilian population in Aleppo is protected and that standards of international humanitarian law are respected in any operation of humanitarian assistance,” Ramzy said.

UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said Russia’s proposal was limited and said the UN was ready with a much more comprehensive operation to take aid to the 250,000 civilians blockaded inside eastern Aleppo and to evacuate those who wanted to leave, including the wounded.

“There two sides, and at times many sides that need to subscribe to a pause in the fighting, we are hopeful, we think it can happen and are ready to use it,” Egeland said.

Very few civilians had left Aleppo after Russia’s offer, he said.

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