France to seek Russian UN backing for Aleppo observers
NEW YORK CITY - France will on Friday seek Russia's backing at the UN Security Council to allow international observers to be deployed to Aleppo and urgent deliveries of humanitarian aid to the Syrian city, the ambassador said.
A draft resolution prepared by France, Germany and other European countries could be quickly adopted if there is a consensus at the council on the emergency measures, said Francois Delattre.
"The immediate priority is to save lives, to stop the massacres and to avoid a new Srebrenica," Delattre told reporters, referring to the massacre of Bosnian Muslims at the hands of Bosnian Serbs during the Balkan wars.
"It is critically urgent that populations be safely evacuated and be evacuated under the surveillance and coordination of international observers," he said.
The Syrian government suspended the evacuation of civilians and fighters from Aleppo on Friday, leaving thousands of people trapped and facing an uncertain fate.
The Security Council will hold an emergency meeting around midday (1700 GMT) to hear a report from UN aid chief Stephane O'Brien on the situation in Aleppo and discuss the French proposal.
Delattre said France would support calling an emergency session of the General Assembly on the Aleppo crisis if the council again fails to take action on Syria.
Such a step would be aimed at maximizing pressure on Syria and its main backers, Russia and Iran, he said.
The Syrian government has for months refused to allow UN aid convoys to reach Aleppo as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad pushed ahead with an offensive to crush opposition fighters who held the city's east since 2012.
Under a deal reached with Syria and backed by Russia and Turkey, evacuations held from the last remaining pocket of rebel opposition in Aleppo on Thursday, but were halted on Friday.
It is unclear how many people remain in east Aleppo, with tens of thousands fleeing to territory held by the government or Kurds in recent days but perhaps tens of thousands still inside.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told a council debate on the Middle East that humanitarian aid was reaching Aleppo and that priority was a return to political negotiations.
"We believe that the most urgent task now is a comprehensive end to military activity and resumption of inter-Syrian negotiations and Damascus has expressed more than once its readiness to take part in these negotiations," said Churkin.
The fall of Aleppo will hand Assad his biggest victory in the nearly six-year war, that has killed more than 300,000 and displaced half of the country's population.