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Middle East World

UN Syria envoy bemoans lack of aid deliveries, seeks Aleppo truce

A civil defence member carries a child that survived from under the rubble at a site hit by airstrikes in the rebel held area of Old Aleppo, Syria, April 28, 2016

No aid convoys have reached civilians trapped in besieged areas of Syria this month and a humanitarian task force has been suspended as a warning to big powers to double down on securing a ceasefire, the UN peace envoy on Syria said on Thursday.

Staffan de Mistura said a 48-hour pause in fighting in the northern city of Aleppo was the main goal for a meeting later in the day of major and regional powers tasked with resurrecting a collapsed cessation of hostilities accord.

“I again insist on behalf of the Secretary General of the UN and of all the Syrian people (on having) a 48-hour pause in Aleppo to start with,” he told reporters in Geneva.

“That would require some heavy lifting from not only the two co-chairs (Russia and the United States) but also those who have an influence on those who are fighting on the ground.”

De Mistura spoke after suspending the weekly meeting of the humanitarian task force after eight minutes “as a sign of deep unhappiness” with the failure to restore calm to enable aid deliveries to stricken civilians in besieged districts.

Aleppo, split into rebel- and government controlled areas, has become the focus of fighting in Syria’s five-year-old civil war. Up to two million people on both sides lack access to clean water after infrastructure was damaged in bombing.

Escalating violence in what was Syria’s most populous pre-war city and biggest commercial hub has caused Geneva peace talks overseen by De Mistura to break down.

The Syrian opposition has said it wants to see a credible pause in violence there, as well as improved humanitarian aid access, before peace talks can resume.

Some 590,200 people are now living in besieged areas of Syria, according to UN figures.

Aid convoys have ground to a halt during the month of August, and the only supplies being delivered are by air drops to Deir al-Zor, the government-controlled city of 200,000 in the east under siege by Islamic State, de Mistura said.

Friday will be the annual World Humanitarian Day, he noted.

“And in Syria what we are hearing and seeing is only fighting, offensives, counter-offensives, rockets, barrel bombs, mortars, hellfire cannons, napalm, chlorine, snipers, air strikes, suicide bombers,” he said, in reference to recent allegations of chemical weapons attacks.

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