Geneva, 13 October 2016
13 October 2016
RER: Good afternoon. Today we held a meeting of the Humanitarian Taskforce. Undoubtedly it has been a bad week, a very disappointing week, and I will come to that later.
Just a few short words about the political update, and what is been happening. Since the difficulties arising from the US and Russia stopping to discuss Syria bilaterally, the Special Envoy has been in intensive discussion with all concerned parties on a number of issues, certainly on humanitarian situation, on the possibilities for reduction of violence and also on the political process. These efforts continue, contacts continue, and we will see how they will produce the results that we all want.
You also know that there is going to be a meeting on Saturday in Lausanne, the Special Envoy has received an invitation and he will be participating in that meeting.
Now on the humanitarian situation, before I give you a very brief overview I would like to emphasize one point: violence has to be reduced, there has to be a stop to the bombardment, shelling and fighting, especially indiscriminate attacks against civilian centers, medical facilities and heavily populated areas. This is the only way the UN can be able to discharge its responsibilities in the humanitarian field.
Now on Aleppo, and I think this remains the focus of attention for all. There has been no relief for the people of Aleppo, they continue to suffer from heavy air strikes and shelling. Clearly, eastern Aleppo is subjected to more bombing and shelling, but also western Aleppo is subjected to shelling and there has been loss of life. I am not drawing a parallel, there is no comparison between what is happening in both, but I just wanted to emphasize that both sides of the city, populated by civilians, are subjected to extremely difficult circumstances, but certainly much more on the eastern side.
The health situation remains dire. Hospitals have not been brought back to what they were a week or ten days ago. Capacity to treat emergency cases is minimal and that is why we are working on a plan for medical evacuations, we continue to work with a number of concerned parties to make that possible, in the very near future, but at to this point, medical evacuations have not been made, very much to our distress.
Maybe the only positive thing is that the water supply which has been cut off in Aleppo has been partially restored, the pumping substation 1, Suleiman al-Halabi has been successfully repaired, and is now capable of providing running water to eastern Aleppo, if fuel is provided. Substation 2 which is serving government controlled western Aleppo, is still out of service but repairs are underway. The UN is also providing water to western Aleppo.
So in short, the situation in Aleppo remains very critical, but there are initiatives to ameliorate the situation to the extent possible and we continue to pursue them.
Overall I can report that we have received the approval the government of Syria for the October plan, as usual, not in full, but we have received it on the 7th of October. Of course the approval of the plan is not sufficient, there are other steps that need to be taken so that deliveries can be made and we call upon all parties to help in ensuring that these steps are taken as soon as possible so the UN will be able to deliver on its October plan as soon as possible. There were times when we only started to do that at the end of the month, I hope that is not the case this time round, and I hope that we will be able to work on that very very quickly.
Air drops to Deir ez-Zor and the air bridge to Hasakah continue to service a sizable population, but our understanding is that the situation in Hasakah is not as it used to be so there is some deterioration there. More efforts need to be made to meet the humanitarian needs in Hasakah project.
As you know air drops are the last resort, they are costly, there are other ways to provide aid, of course, but we only use them in extreme circumstances, and that is the situation in both Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah.
That is what I have to say at this point, I will take a few questions:
Q. For the meeting on Saturday, Staffan de Mistura is going, could you tell us a little bit about what are your expectations, or what can be achieved, and my second question is, when you talk about medical evacuations, how many people do you estimate that need to be medically evacuated?
RER: Well, on the Saturday meeting I told you, all I can say is that we received an invitation and we will be there. Beyond that I think it is up to the host to inform you of what is expected. We were just invited there.
On the medical evacuations, last week, I think the week before, we were talking about hundreds and I think that remains to be the figure, I think more than 200 are in critical situation, but I also heard the figure of 400 children that need to be evacuated, so I think we are still working on these figures, we don't have the final lists yet, but it is, like I said, it is in the hundreds.
Q. Is de Mistura’s proposal about exit of al-Nusra fighters from eastern Aleppo, still valid? Will it be on the table this Saturday?
RER: Well, Mr. de Mistura made an appeal, he made an appeal directed to al-Nusra, but he also made an appeal to those who can help with the appeal. We have heard from al-Nusra, not surprisingly, negative response, but our understanding is that this particular appeal has found resonance in certain quarters, and they are working to make it happen and we hope that this will be the case. But it was an appeal on the part of the UN and there are parties on the ground who have influence, they are the ones who can make it happen. And we will see.
Q. I need a little clarification to understand about the medical evacuations, I wasn't clear if you were suggesting that could happen even if there isn’t a ceasefire, you said you were working on a plan, if you can just clarify that.
RER: I am glad you gave me the opportunity to clarify this. Of course there cannot be medical evacuations without a ceasefire. That is very clear. How long the ceasefire will need to be in place for the medical evacuations, this is one of the issues that were under discussion at this point.
Q: You mentioned other initiatives that you are starting to take regarding humanitarian relief for Aleppo, can you elaborate on that?
RER: Well, I mean certainly, one is the medical evacuations, the other (initiative) is of course the appeal that Mr. de Mistura has made, which is the evacuation of the Nusra fighters, clearly that would have a positive impact on humanitarian aid moving into eastern Aleppo, there no doubt about that. But clearly, I want to emphasize once again, that it is critical is to have a ceasefire.