The European Union on Thursday (18 August) urged an “immediate halt” to fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo to allow medical and humanitarian aid to reach an estimated 1.5 million trapped civilians.
“The EU and its member states call for… an immediate halt to the fighting in Aleppo to allow medical evacuations, deliveries of aid and repairing of essential water and electricity infrastructure,” EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.
The call came as pictures of a young Syrian boy sitting in an ambulance covered in blood and dust after an air strike becomes a symbol of civilian suffering in Aleppo, drawing worldwide attention.
The United Nations warned earlier Thursday that aid convoys had not been able to reach besieged areas in Syria with desperately needed food and medicine for the past month.
Aleppo, Syria’s second city and economic hub, is a top concern since President Bashar al-Assad’s troops seized control of the last supply route into rebel-held areas in mid-July.
Mogherini, speaking on behalf of all 28 EU member states, called on all sides to “ensure the lifting of all sieges and allow sustained, countrywide humanitarian access to those in need.”
At the same time, she said “all international actors” – an apparent reference to long-time Assad ally Russia – should abide by commitments taken by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) in May to put a ceasefire in place to allow humanitarian aid in.
Russia launched a massive air campaign in September which has helped Assad regain control of key areas, especially in and around Aleppo.
Mogherini reiterated the EU believed there could be no peace “without a genuine political transition” – that is, with Assad stepping down at some point in a negotiated settlement.
More than 290,000 people have been killed and more than half the population has been displaced since protests against Assad turned into a full-scale civil war.