Aleppo Evacuation Logjam May Be Broken After the UN Votesby
UN resolution demands ‘safe, immediate and unimpeded access’
Tensions were heightened soon after by a killing in Ankara
The UN Security Council voted unanimously to send observers to Aleppo to monitor evacuations of civilians trapped for more than four months, a move by the international body to break a logjam over relief for thousands in the besieged Syrian city.
The United Nations action Monday came after hours of negotiations over the weekend to avert a veto by Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In the biggest victory in almost six years of civil war, Assad’s forces and allied militias vanquished rebel forces that long held eastern Aleppo.
Hours later, tensions over the conflict were heightened when Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was shot dead in Ankara by a gunman who shouted about Aleppo as he carried out the attack at an art exhibit, according to footage on Turkish television.
The UN resolution calling for observers demands that the warring parties “provide these monitors with safe, immediate and unimpeded access.” But the French-sponsored measure was modified so that UN observers would go in only after consultations with “interested parties.” That leaves the possibility that access could be turned down, including by Iranian and other militias backing Assad.
The resolution is a “fig leaf,” said Faysal Itani, an analyst with the Atlantic Council in Washington. “Way too late for this sort of thing to make any difference,” Itani said. “There won’t be much to monitor. Much of the population in east Aleppo will be out already, the rest will be ruled by the regime.”
Much of eastern Aleppo, a symbolic center for the anti-Assad insurgency, is in ruins, leveled by Syrian and Russian bombing that led European and U.S. officials to speak of possible war crimes. French ambassador to the UN, Francois Delattre, called events unfolding in the city “the worst humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century.”
“The Syrian, Russian and Iranian militaries should immediately comply with the UN Security Council resolution demanding that UN monitors be granted access to Aleppo,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch. “Such monitoring is crucial as Syria, Russia and Iran have abysmal records complying with their obligations to protect civilians in Syria and allow aid access.”
Before Monday’s action, senior UN officials had privately said that they had sought Syrian government permission to be present during the evacuation but their requests had been denied.
Aleppo has become a “synonym for hell,” UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said last week.
“Urgent implementation of this resolution is everything,” said Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN. More than 100 monitors already in western Aleppo can be redeployed, she said. The resolution “allows for UN presence inside those parts of eastern Aleppo that have been conquered by these brutal militia and by the brutal government.”