Foreign Minister Steinmeier on the situation in Aleppo: We will not avert our eyes

16.12.2016 - Article

Foreign Minister Steinmeier has said that Moscow, Tehran and Damascus should be held to account for the humanitarian situation in Aleppo.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said that the governments in Moscow, Tehran and Damascus should be held to account for the humanitarian situation in Aleppo. He said there must be no “attacks or acts of violence or revenge” against the civilian population or against the White Helmets. According to reports coming out of the region, the evacuation of eastern Aleppo was stopped on Friday morning (16 December), around 24 hours after it commenced. The situation remains critical.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier at a press conference on Syria
Foreign Minister Steinmeier at a press conference on Syria© Gaertner / photothek

Commenting on the evacuation of eastern Aleppo, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said on Thursday evening (15 December): “In these dark days and hours, we are glad about every life saved, every life that is not lost in the bombed and devastated city.” He said that the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross had to be able to do their work, which was vital at this time in particular, without restrictions or obstacles. This was not the case to date, he added.

Evacuation halted

According to UN Special Envoy de Mistura, around 50,000 people are still trapped in eastern Aleppo. Several thousand people left Aleppo on Thursday. Fighters and their families are to be taken to other areas under opposition control. On Friday (16 December), however, the evacuation from destroyed eastern Aleppo was evidently halted. This was reported by both the media and relief organisations.

Responsibility lies with Damascus, Moscow and Tehran

Ruins of Aleppo
Ruins of Aleppo© dpa/picture-alliance

“There was never any justification for destroying Aleppo”, stated the German Foreign Minister. Now, more than ever, lives had to be saved. “The Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian supporters have a responsibility to ensure people’s care and safety”, stressed Steinmeier. “We will not avert our eyes.”

Humanitarian aid absolute priority

The first priority now was to provide humanitarian aid to the people in Aleppo who have escaped from the fighting. “They need food, safe water and shelter from the cold.” Steinmeier added that humanitarian aid was on hand and aid workers were on the ground, thanks in large part to support from Germany. The aid workers simply had to be allowed to do their job.

Situation in Aleppo also the focus of the European Council of Heads of State and Government

Syrian refugees in Idlib province
Syrian refugees in Idlib province© picture-alliance/dpa

The European Council on Thursday also focused on the situation in Aleppo. The mayor of eastern Aleppo briefed the Heads of State and Government on the tragedy unfolding in the Syrian city. The EU Heads of State and Government demanded the immediate access of relief organisations and international observers to eastern Aleppo.

Chancellor Angela Merkel accused Russia and Iran of being responsible for crimes against the civilian population in Aleppo. Merkel stated that targeted attacks on civilians and hospitals must have legal consequences.

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