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UN Envoy Calls for Immediate Cease-Fire in Syria


People holding pictures of victims of the airstrikes and shelling in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, gather during a rally outside the Russian Consulate in Istanbul, Feb. 22, 2018.

The U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is calling for an immediate cease-fire in Syria to stop the relentless bombing by the Syrian government, with support by its Russian ally, of civilians trapped in the besieged city of eastern Ghouta.

Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital, Damascus, has been subjected to what the U.N. special envoy for Syria calls horrific bombardment for the past six days.

A U.N. spokeswoman in Geneva, Alessandra Vellucci, says de Mistura is urging a cease-fire to stop both the heavy airstrikes in this besieged city of nearly 400,000 inhabitants and the indiscriminate mortar shelling of Damascus by rebels on the ground in eastern Ghouta.

“The cease-fire needs to be followed by immediate unhindered, humanitarian access and the facilitated evacuation of medical cases out of eastern Ghouta,” Vellucci said. “The special envoy calls again upon Astana guarantors to hold an urgent meeting to reinstall the de-escalation. He warns that this situation cannot be a repeat of Aleppo.”

FILE - U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura gives a press conference closing a round of Syria peace talks at the European headquarters of the United Nations offices in Geneva, Dec. 14, 2017.
FILE - U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura gives a press conference closing a round of Syria peace talks at the European headquarters of the United Nations offices in Geneva, Dec. 14, 2017.

Last May, Russia, Turkey and Iran signed an agreement in the Kazakh capital, Astana, aimed at reducing violence between rebels and Syrian government forces in four so-called de-escalation zones in mainly opposition territories.

This cessation of hostilities agreement appears to have run its course. Syrian activists report more than 420 civilians in eastern Ghouta have been killed this past week. The United Nations reports at least seven health facilities have been hit, putting several out of service.

U.N. Security Council efforts to pass a resolution mandating a 30-day cease-fire, so far, have hit an obstacle. Western diplomats accuse Russia of delaying a vote on an agreement to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s move to regain control of rebel-held eastern Ghouta.

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