The Russian Ministry of Defence declared a unilateral “humanitarian ceasefire” in Aleppo today that is supposed to last for only ten hours, but this was rejected by the Syrian opposition who denounced it as a disingenuous ruse.
The ceasefire, which is due to end in less than an hour, was announced by Russia on Wednesday apparently on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order.
Although described as “humanitarian” by Russia and the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, the announcement made clear that the ceasefire was intended to encourage Syrian opposition groups to depart from Aleppo.
The announcement essentially extended a moratorium on joint airstrikes against Aleppo by Moscow and Damascus until tonight.
Factions opposed to the Assad regime rejected the ceasefire proposal, reaffirming their decision to remain in Aleppo and stating that “there would be no surrender” to the Assad regime, nor would they agree to any ceasefire due to their lack of trust in both Moscow and Damascus.
Zakaria Molahfiji, a commander in the Fastaqim opposition group in Aleppo, said “We reject this [ceasefire] completely,” adding that no such humanitarian corridors existed, indicating that the opposition felt that the regime and its Russian backers were trying to deceive them.
The Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) confirmed this perception by describing it as “a deception” aimed at attaining military objectives seemingly without a fight.
UN cannot deliver aid
Meanwhile, the United Nations said that it was unable to use Russia’s unilateral pause in the fighting in Aleppo to send aid into the city’s besieged eastern district because it did not have the necessary security guarantees, a UN spokesman said today.
“Humanitarian operations cannot be contingent on political or military initiatives,” UN spokesman Jens Laerke said.
“What we really need in Aleppo is for life-saving assistance to get in, to be delivered inside eastern Aleppo, and it is the responsibility of all parties to take the necessary measures, including providing security conditions to enable this.”
The UN has repeatedly said it wants a halt to the fighting by all sides so it can evacuate the wounded and get aid in.
Asked if Russia’s latest offer was a window of opportunity for U.N. aid efforts, Laerke said he was “trying my best not to comment” on the Russian initiative. “Anything that saves lives is of humanitarian interest and we are happy with that,” he said.
“We still do not have the security assurances that we need for sending aid to eastern Aleppo,” he added.
Jessy Chahine-Mankouche, spokeswoman for UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, said the United Nations was also against the evacuation of civilians unless it was voluntary.
“Our position remains the call for a complete nationwide cessation of hostilities but of course anything that contributes to saving lives, we welcome it,” Chahine-Mankouche said.
“There is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. The nationwide cessation of hostilities must be revived. The Syrian air force must agree to ground its air force over Aleppo and extremist elements must be isolated,” she said.