Evacuation plan fails in Syria, UN blames all sides

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem to hold talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Friday

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The United Nations on Monday blamed all sides in Syria after it failed to secure agreement to evacuate critically injured and sick Syrians from Aleppo. UN aid agencies, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the Red Cross and other medical groups held days of negotiations to try to secure safe passage for the sick and wounded, but the effort came to a halt when fighting resumed.

“It is deeply regrettable that no patients or accompanying family members could be moved,” said Stephen O’Brien, the UN’s humanitarian aid coordinator. “The evacuations were obstructed by various factors, including delays in receiving the necessary approvals from local authorities in eastern Aleppo,” he said.

Armed groups imposed conditions to guarantee the safety of the evacuation operation while the Syrian government refused to allow medical and other aid supplies into the rebel-held east of the city, O’Brien added. Russia last week declared a humanitarian pause in the assault on eastern Aleppo, where more than 250,000 civilians have been trapped.

“After three days of lull, parties to the conflict have still not agreed, military operations have resumed and violence is now escalating,” said O’Brien in a statement. “The political and military paths are trumping basic humanity once again in Syria.”

On Monday, Russia ruled out a renewal of the ceasefire and blamed rebel groups for blocking the medical evacuation. “Over the last three days, what was needed did not happen,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. In order to renew the pause, “our opponents must ensure appropriate behavior by the anti-government groups that in particular sabotaged the medical evacuation that was intended during the humanitarian pause,” he said.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem will hold talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Friday, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said Monday. “Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem’s visit to Moscow and his talks with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov are expected on October 28,” deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov told Interfax news agency Monday.

The visit comes as the West accuses Moscow of perpetrating potential war crimes in Aleppo through indiscriminate bombing in support of a Syrian government offensive to retake total control over Aleppo.

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