Kerry, Lavrov in phone diplomacy over Aleppo
AFP PhotoThe foreign ministers of the United States and Russia, the authors of a stillborn cease-fire in Syria, held discussions by phone for the fourth consecutive day on Oct. 1 regarding the bombing campaign in Aleppo that has hit hospitals and water supplies.
Russia said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke to his American counterpart, John Kerry, on Oct. 1 and that they “examined the situation in Syria, including the possibility of normalizing the situation around Aleppo.”
It said “illegal armed groups” continue fighting in the city despite Russian-U.S. agreements.
Aleppo has been divided by a frontline between rebel forces in the east and government troops in the west since 2012.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned the U.S. against taking any direct action against Damascus or the Syrian army.
“It will lead to terrible, tectonic shifts not only on the territory of this country but also in the region in general,” she said, according to Russian state-controlled news provider Sputnik.
On Oct. 2, Syrian government and allied forces advanced north of Aleppo, pressing their week-old offensive to take the insurgent-held, eastern part of the city after dozens of overnight air strikes.
The Syrian army told rebels to leave the area, offering safe passage and aid supplies.
The assault has nearly destroyed eastern Aleppo’s healthcare system, the U.N. said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian military said the army and its allies had advanced south from the Handarat refugee camp north of Aleppo city, which they took earlier this week, taking the Kindi hospital and parts of the Shuqaif industrial area.
Air strikes and shelling continued on Oct. 2, the observatory said.
The relentless Russian and Syrian air campaign in east Aleppo has damaged hospitals and water supplies.
East Aleppo came under siege in early July after its main supply route, the Castello Road, fell under government control.
Internationally brokered attempts to establish cease-fires to allow in United Nations humanitarian aid have failed, although other international and local aid groups have brought in limited supplies.
The U.N.’s undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Stephen O’Brien, said he was “deeply alarmed by the ferocious pummeling of eastern Aleppo” and reiterated U.N. calls for a pause in fighting, medical evacuations and access for aid.
“The health system is on the verge of total collapse with patients being turned away and no medicines available to treat even the most common ailments,” he said.
“With clean water and food in very short supply, the number of people requiring urgent medical evacuations are likely to rise dramatically in the coming days,” he said.
On Oct. 1, the largest trauma and intensive care center in eastern Aleppo was badly damaged by air strikes and had to close, while two patients were killed.
The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), which partly supported the hospital, said the hospital had been hit seven times since July, with three attacks this week alone.