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Foreign countries agree to work on a ceasefire in Syria in the coming week

BEIRUT |, with agencies - February 12, 2016, 09h32

Amid violence and abuses in and around the city of Aleppo and other parts of war-ravaged Syria, the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) agreed to work out the terms of nationwide “cessation of hostilities” in the coming week.

Top-level diplomats representing countries members of the ISSG were meeting in Munich yesterday to discuss a way to end the Syria crisis.

The ISSG is working since November to ensure a ceasefire. It's also working on Syrian political negotiations. The group includes the Arab League, the European Union, the United Nations, and 17 countries including the United States and Russia. Some of these members, such as the USA and Russia, are respectively supporting opponents fighting in Syria.

Russia is a strong ally of the Syrian regime while the United States are supporting the opposition.

A note to correspondents issued Thursday evening by a UN spokesperson set out the details of the agreement reached in Munich by the ISSG:

The top diplomats agreed “to accelerate the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid, sustained delivery of assistance shall begin this week” in seven besieged areas inside Syria, including the town of Madaya, which drew worldwide attention recently after UN and Red Cross workers reported people starving to death or being killed trying to flee.

The statement explains that the cessation of hostilities will commence in one week, “after confirmation by the Syrian Government and opposition, following appropriate consultations in Syria.” During that week, an ISSG task force will develop relevant modalities. The ISSG also agreed that a cessation of hostilities should apply to any party currently engaged in military or paramilitary hostilities “against any other parties other than Da’esh, Jabhat al-Nusra, or other groups designated as terrorist organizations” by the UN Security Council.

Meanwhile, earlier today, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, strongly condemned rapidly worsening human rights situation in and around the city of Aleppo and other parts of Syria, where he said “shocking violations and abuses are committed on a daily basis.”

“The warring parties in Syria are constantly sinking to new depths, without apparently caring in the slightest about the death and destruction they are wreaking across the country. Women and children, the elderly, the wounded and sick, the people with disabilities are being used as bargaining chips and cannon fodder day after day, week after week, month after month. It is a grotesque situation,” he warned.

Dire humanitarian conditions throughout Syria

The human rights chief also stressed that hundreds of thousands of civilians in other parts of Syria are also facing dire humanitarian conditions, particularly those under sieges imposed both by Government forces and affiliated armed groups, and by armed opposition groups, including ISIL.

“The deliberate starvation of civilians as a method of warfare constitutes a clear violation of international humanitarian law,” Mr. Zeid said. “The targeting of civilians, including thousands of children, is abhorrent and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Those responsible for such acts, including under command responsibility, must be brought to justice.”

“I remind all parties of their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law to protect civilians at all times and to allow full access to humanitarian relief, to collect and care for the sick and wounded, and not to take actions which would deprive civilians of their right to food and health,” the UN human rights chief added.

Mr. Zeid also stressed that all parties to a conflict have obligations under international humanitarian law not to place the civilian population in peril by taking shelter amongst them, or in protected structures such as schools and hospitals.

“The peace talks in Geneva must be resumed as early as possible,” he insisted. “It is unconscionable that the various parties cannot even manage to sit around the table, when, because of their actions, more than a quarter of a million people have died, and the rest of the population is suffering to such a degree. A lasting peaceful resolution of this horrific war must be built on a solid foundation of human rights."

#ISSG, #Syria
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