U.S., Western Leaders Calling for Immediate Aleppo Ceasefire

Smoke rises after strikes on Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) controlled Tell Rifaat town, northern Aleppo province, Syria October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
Smoke rises after strikes on Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) controlled Tell Rifaat town, northern Aleppo province, Oct. 21. (Reuters/Khalil Ashawi)

The United States and five other Western powers on Wednesday called for an immediate ceasefire in the Syrian city of Aleppo and accused Russia of blocking efforts to halt the bloodshed.

In a joint statement, the leaders of Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Canada and the U.S. demanded that Syria’s government address the humanitarian crisis by allowing United Nations aid into eastern Aleppo. The said the U.N. should investigate reports of war crimes committed in Syria.

“We condemn the actions of the Syrian regime and its foreign backers, especially Russia, for their obstruction of humanitarian aid,” the leaders said, adding that hospitals and schools appeared to have been targeted “in an attempt to wear people down.”

The display of diplomatic unity appeared intended to build support for a five-day ceasefire for eastern Aleppo that several Syrian rebel groups proposed Wednesday in hopes of allowing civilians to flee, including the sick and wounded.

The White House didn’t immediately say whether the leaders were endorsing that specific ceasefire proposal. But the calls for a pause in fighting have grown more urgent as Syrian government troops and their allies push farther and farther into Aleppo, forcing rebels to retreat and civilians to leave their homes.

Syria’s government and Russia rejected a previous ceasefire for Aleppo while continuing to try to oust rebels from the city. The top U.S. and Russian diplomats planned to discuss the crisis further during talks Wednesday in Germany.

The Western leaders reserved some of their harshest condemnation for Russia, the Syrian government’s strongest ally. They charged that Moscow was blocking action at the U.N. Security Council intended to stem the violence.

The Syrian government’s “refusal to engage in a serious political process also highlights the unwillingness of both Russia and Iran to work for a political solution despite their assurances to the contrary,” the leaders said.

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