UAE calls for immediate truce in Eastern Ghouta
Syrian government strikes pounded the rebel-held Damascus suburb for a fifth straight day on Thursday, bringing the civilian death toll to more than 400
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have joined international calls for an immediate truce in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued an official statement on Thursday calling for an immediate truce to protect the life of civilians, reported the UAE's state news agency, Wam. It expressed its "deep concern" at the escalation of violence and the repercussions of this on the humanitarian situation.
Regime strikes pounded Eastern Ghouta for a fifth straight day on Thursday, killing dozens. This brought the number of civilians killed in the bombardment to more than 400, including 95 children, according to Agence France-Presse.
The fresh strikes came ahead of a potential vote at the UN Security Council in New York on Thursday on a resolution demanding a month-long ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta. But by night-time in the UAE, Russia said there was still no agreement at the council on the resolution and presented amendments. Moscow is the Assad regime's main ally.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Sweden and Kuwait, which drafted the measure, had requested a vote on the draft resolution even though they are "fully aware there is no agreement on it".
In its statement calling for an immediate truce, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation stressed the need for a halt to fighting to allow access for humanitarian aid to reach the enclave.
Saudi Arabia also called on the Syrian regime to end its assault on Eastern Ghouta.
"We stress the need for the Syrian regime to stop the violence, to allow in humanitarian aid, and to take seriously the path of a political solution to the crisis," the Saudi foreign ministry said on Twitter.
Earlier, the Trump administration said it strongly condemned "recent attacks on the people of Syria in Eastern Ghouta by Russia and the Assad regime".
"The targeted destruction of medical facilities in Eastern Ghouta and the continued use of siege tactics, which starve Syrian civilians and prevent humanitarian access, are especially troubling," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
She called Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's government a "deplorable regime" and urged Damascus to "stop committing additional atrocities". The Syrian government "must not be further abetted by backers in Moscow and Tehran", she added.
The UAE also expressed its deep concern over foreign interference in Syria, which it said violates Damascus's sovereignty and aggravates the crisis.
Russia has so far denied direct involvement in the assault on Eastern Ghouta but the pro-government Syrian newspaper Al Watan reported on Thursday that Russian warplanes and advisers had joined the battle.
Updated: February 22, 2018 10:47 PM