International Criticism over Russian “Humanitarian” Plan in Aleppo
Taha Abed alWahed – 30 July 2016 – Asharq Alawsat – Moscow – Amid continuous Russian announcements of plans in Syria, actual intentions are becoming unclear especially with ongoing negotiations with the Americans on exchanging military expertise.Both parties confirm that this will lead to a tangible change on the Syrian arena. But after the Russian “humanitarian process”, Russian government confirmed the agreement for air force deployment in The Russian government announced on Friday an agreement with Syrian regime government on the deployment of the Russian air grouping on Syrian territories.
The government has submitted it for Russian President Vladimir Putin to refer it to parliament for approval. The document published on the Official Portal for Legal information stated that, “Approve and submit to the President of Russia for ratification in the State Duma an agreement between Russia and the Syrian Arab Republic on the deployment of the Russian Armed Forces aviation group on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, signed in Damascus on August 26, 2015.”
The text points out that the Hmeimim air facility, its infrastructure and territory are granted to Russia free of charge. The agreement has no state of limitation.
Analysts wonder why the agreement was revealed now knowing that it was done almost a year ago. Meanwhile, the “humanitarian process” in Aleppo has been announced as many still doubt the main reason behind it.Russian newspaper Kommersant issued a report entitled “Humanitarian Preparations to Enter Aleppo”. In the report the Kommersant mentioned that the agreement ensures “safe corridors” for civilians and opposition fighters to leave the city. The newspaper mentioned that it is possible that forces enter Aleppo at the end of the operation.
Kommersant doesn’t rule out that the Russian-Turkish approach plays a positive role in this given that the Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan is occupied with the internal situation. The newspaper reported First Deputy of the Russian State Duma Committee on International Affair Leonid Kalashinkov saying that the main purpose of the humanitarian operation is to avoid the killing of civilians. U.N. Syria Envoy Staffan de Mistura welcomed the humanitarian operation in Aleppo, and suggested leaving “the corridors, which are being established at their initiative” to U.N.
“My understanding is the Russians are open for major improvements,” he said. “The U.N. and the humanitarian partners have experience. That’s our job. Bringing humanitarian assistance and supplies to civilians, wherever the happen to be, is exactly why the U.N. is there.”
France doubted the intentions of Russia regarding this operation saying that corridors out of the city were not “a credible response to the situation” and residents should be able to receive aid at home.Russia responded through its Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov who said: “The Russian military department is doing everything possible in order to improve humanitarian situation in Aleppo.”
During a press conference, Antonov stressed that the operation in Aleppo is an exclusively humanitarian mission. He added that, if it is needed, the humanitarian corridors for peaceful convoys will be open not only from Aleppo but also to the city. But we will not admit at any circumstances the flow of arms to the regions controlled by the militants. At the same time, he noted that “the reaction of some media agencies and political figures, who have seen a disguised plan in the Russian actions, is surprising”.
Meanwhile, France believed that the humanitarian corridors of the Syrian regime are not a credible solution. France’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Romain Nadal said that: “International humanitarian law demands that aid must be sent urgently. The residents of Aleppo must be able to stay home in security and receive all the aid they need.”Nadal added, “In this context, humanitarian corridors, which require residents of Aleppo to leave the city, do not represent a credible response to the situation.”
On Thursday, following the announcement of the humanitarian operation, regime forces opened three humanitarian passages for civilians and surrendering fighters seeking to exit the city’s rebel-held eastern neighborhoods.According to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, a fourth corridor for the passage of fighters in Aleppo is being set up in the north on Castello road.
While in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Aleppo with thousands of civilians besieged and all sorts of supplies and aids cut off. German FM blamed Syrian regime for the crisis saying it is playing games by bombing all areas and offering safe corridors.
Steinmeier placed part of the responsibility for the humanitarian crisis on Russia saying: “Russia shoulders particularly great responsibility in this difficult situation on account of its support for the Syrian army and air force.”“Exercising military restraint and allowing humanitarian aid to reach people trapped in besieged areas are what is needed right now. We need there to be an end to violence and a return to the negotiating table,” he concluded.