“There is a real risk that a new and terrible chapter of the Syrian tragedy is about to commence,” says Foreign Minister Steinmeier. The siege around the city of Aleppo has the potential to lead to a dire humanitarian crisis. In a statement to “Bild-Zeitung” on Thursday (4 August), Steinmeier said the priority now was to prevent an even worse disaster for the civilian population.
Disastrous situation in Aleppo
The areas held by rebels in the eastern part of the city of Aleppo have been cut off from the outside world for over two weeks. Syrian regime troops and their allies have blocked the last supply route and surrounded up to 300,000 people, who are totally cut off from supplies. The humanitarian situation is disastrous.
Germany, as one of the largest donors, has already provided over two billion euros for humanitarian aid in Syria, thus helping hundreds of thousands of people affected by the war. However, aid convoys are often not allowed to pass. Instead, the Syrian regime is urging people in Aleppo to leave the city via unsafe escape routes. “This is a callous game,” Steinmeier said. According to aid organisations, food supplies are now running out. In order to prevent a humanitarian disaster, we urgently need UN-controlled humanitarian access routes to Aleppo by which people can be provided with water and food, Steinmeier underlined.
Steinmeier calls for a ceasefire; this cynical game must come to an end
Steinmeier called on the parties to the conflict to impose an immediate humanitarian ceasefire so that relief supplies can reach people. “The Syrian regime’s attacks against the civilian population must cease immediately.” Those who have triggered the crisis with carpet-bombing campaigns, all the while offering unsafe escape routes, are playing “a cynical game, forcing people to make a cruel choice and, ultimately, ruling out any prospect of resuming the Geneva talks on Syria”, he said. As a supporter of the Syrian army, Russia also had a responsibility to prevent the imminent humanitarian disaster. Russia now had a duty to halt the Syrian regime, impose a ceasefire in Aleppo and work with the United Nations.
A return to the negotiating table
The United States of America and Russia have been holding direct talks on de-escalating the situation in Syria for some time now. The current situation in and around Aleppo makes an agreement all the more urgent.
The people in Syria have now been suffering for more than five years from the impact of the terrible civil war. Exercising military restraint and allowing humanitarian aid to reach people trapped in besieged areas are what is needed right now, Steinmeier said. “We need there to be an end to the violence and a return to the negotiating table.” It was absolutely essential to resume the Geneva talks, he said. At a recent meeting with UN Special Envoy de Mistura in Berlin, Steinmeier discussed instruments and strategies to get the parties to the conflict back around one table.