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France calls for Russia to end strikes on Syria amid Madaya crisis

France demands that Russia halt airstrikes on Syrian civilians. Meanwhile, a convoy of medical and food supplies is making its way to Madaya, which is under government siege, and where over 40,000 people are starving.

"We discussed the absolute necessity that Syria and Russia end their military operations against civilians and in particular the ordeal in Madaya and other cities besieged by the regime," the French foreign minister told journalists on Monday.

"It shows how much the Bashar Assad regime… for moral and efficiency purposes cannot be the future of Syria and also the same time that the Russians do not undertake any inadmissible actions," he added after a meeting with Syrian opposition representative Riad Hijab.

Syrien Hilfskonvoi für Madaja

Aid convoys leave Damascus for Madaya

Hijab will be present at the January 25 peace talks with the government mediated by the United Nations. "There must be two elements [to these talks]," Fabius said. "On the one hand the immediate end of bombardments and on the other hand that the agenda of these negotiations are sufficiently precise and there is no doubt in particular over who will govern," he added.

Russia began its

airstrikes

in late September last year, saying it was targeting "Islamic State" militants and other "terrorists" in Syria several months ago, but has denied targeting any civilians.

Help on its way to Madaya

The international community meanwhile expressed concerns about

Madaya, a town besieged by the Syrian regime

, where people were on the brink of starvation and running out of medical supplies.

Conditions are dire in the town, where over 23 people died of starvation over the weekend, Doctors without Borders (MSF) told the media.

Residents said they had been reduced to eating weeds and paying exorbitant prices for very little food. At least 13 people trying to escape the area were blown up by landmines or shot down by snipers, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

On Monday, 40 trucks loaded with food and medical aid were nearing the area, the International Red Cross Committee (ICRC) said. The trucks were expected to enter the town later on Monday afternoon after passing through several checkpoints, Mazen Burhan of the Madaya Health Committee told AFP news agency.

More than 260,000 people have been killed in the country since the conflict began in March 2011.

mg/ng (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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