UN Security Council considers demanding 30-day Syria truce

Sheep are seen at a damaged site after an airstrike in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria, on Feb 9, 2018.
Sheep are seen at a damaged site after an airstrike in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria, on Feb 9, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire in Syria to allow for urgent deliveries of humanitarian aid, according to the text seen by AFP on Friday (Feb 9).

Sweden and Kuwait presented the measure that would also demand an immediate end to sieges, including in Eastern Ghouta where a bombing campaign by government forces has killed more than 240 civilians in five days.

The proposed measure came a day after the council failed to back an appeal by UN aid officials for a month-long pause in fighting.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said it was "not realistic" to impose a ceasefire because armed groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces were unlikely to uphold it.

Russia has repeatedly blocked action in the council that would put pressure on its ally Assad.

Negotiations on the proposed measure are to begin on Monday and diplomats said it could quickly come to a vote at the council.

It remained unclear whether Russia would resort to its veto to block the draft resolution proposing the 30-day truce, diplomats said.

The measure would decide "that all parties to the Syrian conflict shall immediately abide by a humanitarian pause and cessation of violence throughout Syria, for a period of 30 consecutive days," according to the text.

The draft demands that all sides allow medical evacuations 48 hours after the start of the humanitarian pause.

Convoys carrying food, medicine and other vital supplies would be authorized to make weekly deliveries to civilians in need, in particular to the 2.9 million Syrians living under siege or in hard-to-reach areas.

UN aid officials accuse the Syrian government of blocking all aid convoys to besieged areas since January.

Rights group accuse the Assad regime of resorting to starve-and-siege tactics against rebel-held areas.

The draft resolution calls on all parties to "immediately lift the sieges of populated areas" and "cease depriving civilians of food and medicine indispensable for their survival." The UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Panos Moumtzis, on Tuesday called for the month-long ceasefire across Syria as fighting in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib escalated.

Western powers have expressed alarm over the government's bombing campaign in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, where 400,000 people have been living under siege since 2013.

UNICEF said dozens of children have reportedly been killed this week and that life under such heavy violence had turned into a "living nightmare" for children.

The draft resolution expresses "outrage at the unacceptable level of violence escalating in several parts of the country," in particular in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib.

Sweden and Kuwait, two non-permanent council members, are leading efforts to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria at the top UN body.

More than 13.1 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid, including 6.1 million who have been displaced within the country during the nearly seven-year war.