John Ging in Aleppo/OCHA G. Conell

John Ging in Aleppo/OCHA G. Conell

President Obama has sent Secretary of State John Kerry  to  Moscow, where he will meet with President Vladimir Putin to try to persuade him to withdraw his support for Syria and its president Bashar Al Assad in the Security Council of the UN. Kerry arrived to Moscow just a day after a demonstration by  the opposition anti Putin on the streets of Moscow to mark the first anniversary of his taking power as a president…again. And in the middle of a series of measures taken by the Russian President against NGO (now “Foreign Agents”), and against critics of his regime that made say to both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that since Putin returned to the presidency in May 2012, there has been a “crackdown in civil society” without precedents in post-Soviet era. And after diplomatic tensions between the two Countries after the tit for tat expulsion of officials or the previous cancellation of all the programs of USAID in Russia.

No. It’s not easy to talk with Mr. Putin this days being American. And to talk about Syria it’s more difficult with the volatile situation just after the bombing by Israel near Damascus and confused claims by Carla Del Ponte from the UN that the opposition to Al Assad had used gas sarin during the fighting, which the US received with scepticism because, they say, they don’t have the means and they are investigating if Al Assad is using chemical weapons against his people. After all this polemic,  the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic said in a statement that “wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict.” So the confusion is total and the situation not ready for big agreements.

The need of an action in the Security Council of the UN was urged last April 18 by the United Nation’s Humanitarian Chief, Valerie Amos, who asked for an immediate political solution to the conflict in Syria, warning that continued failure could see the country reach a “point of no return”. “The situation in Syria is a humanitarian catastrophe with ordinary people paying the price for the failure to end the conflict,” she told the Security Council in New York.

According to the UN, “6.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 4.25 million who are internally displaced. A further 1.3 million have fled the country and sought refuge in neighbouring countries”.

“Vital infrastructure has been devastated. UN assessment missions report that some cities have been almost entirely reduced to rubble, and widespread power disruptions have left countless communities without access to water. Almost a third of all houses across the country have been damaged or destroyed.”

However, Ms Amos explained that even these figures fail to reveal the true horror of the conflict that has entered its third year.

OCHA Operations Director, John Ging, who returned from Aleppo April 22, has described how Syrian authorities are actively obstructing already constrained aid efforts, and has repeated a call for the international community to find an urgent political solution to the crisis. Speaking upon his return from the war-torn country, Mr Ging criticized the government’s refusal to allow UN agencies to enter opposition controlled areas from neighboring countries, requiring them instead to make perilous trips across conflict lines, reported a press release of the OCHA.

“There is no logical reason why you can cross a conflict line but not a border,” he told journalists in New York. “But there is a consequence: people are dying.” He described how difficult it was for agencies to reach the besieged city of Aleppo. Although Aleppo sits within a short drive of Syria’s border with Turkey, aid organizations are forced to travel there from Damascus on a road dotted with government and opposition checkpoints. “You cannot negotiate the 54 checkpoints between Damascus and Aleppo everyday with the quantity of aid that Aleppo needs. But you can drive it in 1 hour from Turkey efficiently and effectively. We need those (cross border) routes.” Aleppo, Mr Ging said, is a city divided and devastated. Government controlled areas, although severely damaged, do have some access to water, electricity and basic commodities. However, those neighborhoods controlled by the opposition are much worse.“We crossed into the opposition controlled area and we were shocked by what we saw immediately. The streets are strewn with rubbish. It’s a public- health disaster in the making. (The people) have no electricity. Phone networks are totally cut off. People have water once every five days.”

 

About Olga Brajnović

Journalist. In my fifties. I've worked for 26 years in a newspaper in Spain. I worked for two years as a stringer and correspondent in the US, and went as a special envoy to other places like the Balkans. Sea lover. Avid reader. Classic Music enthusiast.

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Middle East, World and Politics

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