At UN, West calls for Syria ceasefire but Russia unmoved

The UN Security Council's western members called Thursday for a "humanitarian ceasefire" in Syria's war-battered Idlib region, but Russia was unmoved, saying the only solution was "to chase the terrorists from the country."

The representatives of Belgium and Germany issued a joint statement, decrying the toll taken by a Russian-backed regime offensive in the region.

"The displacement of nearly one million people in only three months, the killing of hundreds of civilians, the daily suffering of hundred thousands of children must stop!" the statement by Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

"A is essential. Full humanitarian access is needed," they said.

Belgium and Germany are non-permanent members of the Security Council and are responsible for monitoring Syria's humanitarian affairs.

The United States, France, Britain and Estonia also called for "an immediate cessation of hostilities," in the words of French ambassador Nicolas de Riviere.

"France condemns with the greatest firmness the intense bombardments by the aviation of the regime and its allies, in particular ," he said, citing "indiscriminate" attacks on hospitals, schools and refugee shelters.

"We must concentrate all of our efforts on immediately establishing a durable and verifiable ceasefire -- one brokered by a fully empowered UN," US ambassador Kelly Craft said.

"This will require Russia to ground its planes at once and tell the regime to pull back its forces," she said.

But Russia's UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said the Security Council was spending too much time in meetings on Syria.

"The only long-term solution is to chase the terrorists from the country," he said.

China's deputy permanent representative, Wu Haito, said "terrorists and foreign combatants" are "the biggest obstacles" to peace in Syria and called for "the elimination of terrorist fiefs."

Ursula Mueller, assistant UN secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said earlier that what was happening in northwestern Syria "is beyond imagination."

"It is not humanly tolerable. Our latest available data indicate that almost 950,000 people have fled the advancing frontlines in the northwest since December 1," she said.

UNICEF director Henrietta Fore told the Security Council she was going to Syria and the region over the weekend.

"We desperately need a cessation of hostilities in northwest Syria. We need regular humanitarian pauses," she said.


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