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Berlin blames Moscow for Aleppo food crisis

August 15, 2016

A spokesman for the German government has criticized Russia's offer of three-hour daily ceasefires in the Syrian city. But Moscow insists longer breaks will only help "terrorists" in the city.

Destroyed houses and buildings in Aleppo
Image: picture-alliance/Sputnik/M. Alaeddin

The German government on Monday urgently called on Russia and the Syrian government to facilitate humanitarian access to the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin wanted Russia to exert its "great influence on the Syrian president" to enable food, water and medical aid to get through to the people in the northern city, which has been under siege by Russian military and Syrian government forces. He said it depended primarily on Moscow and the Syrian regime "whether the dying continued in Aleppo," and spoke of a letter to Merkel by 30 doctors who had remained in the city, in which they had appealed to her for urgent help.

Seibert also criticized Moscow's offer last week of a daily three-hour ceasefire, saying that this did not provide enough time for the necessary aid to be transported into the city.

He said the Russian promise was "meant to sound like a concession, but is actually cynicism, since everyone knows that this time is nowhere near enough to really restore supplies to desperate people."

'Catastrophic situation'

Seibert's comments were echoed by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Russia.

"The humanitarian situation in Aleppo is catastrophic. This cannot and must not continue. Three hours a day is not enough," Steinmeier said in Yekaterinburg, where the meeting took place. He called instead for a complete ceasefire.

Lavrov, while admitting that three hours was "insufficient," defended the Russian offer, saying that longer ceasefires would give terrorists time to regroup and replenish supplies.

"A result of the pause has been a slight improvement of the humanitarian situation," he said in comments carried by Russian state news agency TASS.

"But the main result has been terrorists replenishing their numbers by 7,000 people, not to mention a large quantity of guns and munitions," he added, saying it would be necessary "to resolve issues in the fight against the terrorists" before prolonging the ceasefires.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Steinmeier and Lavrov admitted at their talks that diplomatic ties were strained over both Syria and the Ukraine crisisImage: picture-alliance/dpa/TASS/D. Sorokin

Russia, which has sent troops to help its longtime ally President Bashar al-Assad amid Syria's more than five-year-long civil war, last week announced three-hour humanitarian pauses over three days in Aleppo - a measure immediately slammed by the United Nations as inadequate.

Syrian government forces last month captured the last rebel supply route to the city. The UN warned at the time that food supplies would last only until mid-August.

tj/rc (KNA, dpa, AP