Russia pledges fighting pause in Syria's Idlib during Aleppo evacuations
GENEVA - Russia has promised there will be a pause in fighting in Syria's Idlib province as people are evacuated there from Aleppo, a top UN official said Thursday.
The head of the UN-backed humanitarian taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, told reporters in Geneva that "most" of those evacuated from Aleppo will be headed to opposition stronghold Idlib, in Syria's northwest.
Egeland said the UN has two humanitarian hubs set up in the province.
"Russians and others assure us that there will be a pause in the fighting... when we assist the evacuation," Egeland said.
Russia is Syria's key military ally and Moscow's backing helped secure the regime's victory over rebels in Aleppo.
Egeland said that evacuees arriving in Idlib will be registered "and directed to the assistance that (the UN) can provide."
He stressed that the UN was not part of the deal agreed to halt to the brutal fighting in Aleppo.
"This is not an agreement mediated by the United Nations," he said. "We were only invited to monitor (the evacuations) this morning."
Egeland and the World Health Organization have confirmed that WHO staff were the first UN personnel on the ground at the evacuation staging area in what was previously rebel-held eastern Aleppo.
The WHO will assist the International Committee of the Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent with medical evacuations from the staging area, the UN health agency's spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.
Egeland said the UN was drawing up contingency plans for up to 100,000 displaced people to move to Idlib and was working with opposition ally Turkey to set up large scale camps.
But figures for the total number of people displaced from Aleppo remain difficult to establish, Egeland added.