25 August 2016
SdeM: Thank you, we are waiting for Yacoub El Hillo who is on his way, because we want to give him a chance today, as it is his last day, as you know, in his current capacity and therefore, we had at the humanitarian task force the opportunity of thanking him and to wish him also the best for his new mission elsewhere. And when he will be there, we will definitely give him the floor.
Now let me give you a little bit of an indication. The first thing I wanted to tell you is that I am not going to go through political analysis at the moment, and you know very much why: while we are meeting here, both the Secretary of State John Kerry and the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, are in Geneva [Correction: FM Lavrov and Sec. of State Kerry are expected to meet in Geneva tomorrow.], and there are important meetings taking place, which among other things, are going to cover and are likely very much to cover the issue of Syria. So you will understand why, at this stage, I prefer not to make any type of comments in light also of those meetings and we will be able to meet again, perhaps in two days’ time or even earlier than that. But at the moment, the only thing I can tell you is that those meetings that are taking [Correction: will take] place outside this office, here in Geneva, are certainly going to have impact on the way we will be, and I plan to, present what are the political initiatives of the UN in order to re-launch the political process on Syria.
I will stop there for the moment. I was planning to tell you more but in view of what has happened and is happening, we need to take that into account as well. . So forgive me if I am not going beyond on that.
Second point, you do remember I am sure, that I had an emotional part of my own intervention last Thursday, when we appealed very firmly and very strongly, I would say, on behalf of the Syrian people in general, but the people of Aleppo in particular, for a 48-hours’ pause in order to reach both sides of Aleppo, and particularly emphasizing that we needed that in order to be able to have UN convoys through the Castello road, the famous Castello road, which had been cut off, in order to reach eastern Aleppo, and frankly also western Aleppo, from the south. All Syrians are in need.
And I think you will be hearing that we have done our homework, we are ready, not only with intentions, we are ready concretely, practically, operationally and I think Jan he will be with you, and when Yacoub will be with you, he will be able to say so.
Just one word, these things, every pause, every humanitarian operation is difficult, but our focus, at least when we talk about humanitarian access, should be the people, not political posturing by one side or the other, but the people, that is what is guiding us and what will help of course, anything that happens regarding also the political process. That is why we are very much focused on maintaining our line: we want a pause for 48 hours, the Russian Federation replied ‘yes’, we will wait for others to do the same, but we are ready, trucks are ready and they can leave anytime we get that message.
Jan, the floor is yours.
JE: Thank you Staffan. The Aleppo emergency response plan has three elements: first a lifeline to eastern Aleppo, going cross-border from Turkey, and initially we would be ready in the first 48-hours weekly pause to have two convoys of 20 trucks each that would carry enough food for 80,000 people in eastern Aleppo - 80,000 people - and that would come via the famous Castello road, which is the safest and most direct route.
SdeM: According to the UN not according to others, we have indicated that it is the safest, the fastest, the most effective road to get to eastern Aleppo.
JE: And the second element is to have simultaneous distributions with humanitarian response to needs done in western Aleppo where needs have also increased dramatically of late, simultaneously. That will be led cross-line mostly from Damascus side and with supplies that we have now been able to pre-position in western Aleppo.
The third element of this very important plan to use the 48 hour pause for would be to have a cross-line repair of the electricity plant which is stationed in the disputed southern part of Aleppo. That electricity plant is serving 1.8 million people with the daily electricity needs and even more importantly the pumping stations pumping water to 1.8 million people in east and in west, they are united in this longing for water and this suffering without water.
So we have now everything ready, we have discussed how the trucks will be sealed, how they will be monitored, how we can guarantee that it is only humanitarian supplies going into this combat zones. We have the trucks, the supplies, everything ready. We can go on very short notice.
We have also agreement now from the Russian Federation of the 48 hour pause, we are also waiting it from the other actors on the ground. That has taken more time frankly than I thought was needed, I thought everybody would help us make it happen, we are hopeful that it will be a very short time until we can roll and we can help the long-suffering people of Aleppo.
In addition we did of course focus on all of the other areas of great need in Syria. It hasn't gotten better in Madaya and Darayya because it got worse in Aleppo. And we are sorry to say that the four towns have now been 116 days without any convoy with food and other supplies. The one glimmer of hope was that at long last there was an evacuation in the recent week of 40 children and others of great medical needs in Madaya, Fouah and Kafraya. But our appeal is to those who are behind the four towns agreement, including Iran and Ahrar al-Sham, help us come to these four towns with the relief that they need, starvation is just around the corner.
The only place we were able to reach this month of August with land convoys was al-Waer, that is getting its second convoy today, this month. We were able to reach Deir ez-Zor and Qamishli with air drops and air bridge respectively. But we failed the other besieged areas of Syria and it is heartbreaking really when we have all of the supplies ready.
SdeM: Thank you Jan.
Two points. The first point is that Yacoub is currently in an interview with Lyse Doucet of the BBC, and it is going on longer - that is why he could not be here with us, but I am sorry I am just telling you the truth. But you would find out anyway and I just learnt it, that's why he is not here.
Anyway I want to put on record, since we are now ending our press stakeout, on record how much we appreciated, all of us, and how much during the stakeout, not only this but many other meetings, the humanitarian taskforce expressed enormous appreciation and respect not only to Yacoub but to his remarkable team in the field. He has been there for three years so it was only normal that we should be doing that today, and also for the very difficult circumstances in which he has been working.
The second point, is something you will not like but I am being, I think on record with you, I have been quite generous in the past: there will be no questions. We will be stopping here, I am sorry, I know, because I told you, you will be able to have much more discussion with us once the John Kerry-Lavrov meeting takes place, point one. Point two, once we will have more information on what is the response of all the others to what is a readiness from the UN about the pause. Thank you.
Geneva, 25 August 2016