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Russia Set to Block U.N. From Monitoring Aleppo Evacuation

UNITED NATIONS — Russia said on Sunday morning that it would block an effort to deploy United Nations observers in Syria to witness the evacuation of thousands of men, women and children from eastern Aleppo, or what the United Nations chief, Ban Ki-moon, has described as “a synonym for hell.”

The showdown inside the Security Council came after senior United Nations officials pleaded for access to the evacuation process, in an attempt to verify a steady stream of reports of atrocities and dead bodies on the streets.

Last week, the United Nations top envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said that he had repeatedly asked the Syrian government for permission to allow United Nations staff members to witness the evacuation of civilians and fighters — but that no permission had been received.

On Sunday, his humanitarian adviser, Jan Egeland, repeated that call. “It is important that there are third parties present to witness and assist,” Mr. Egeland said in an email.

There are hundreds of United Nations staff members stationed in government-held cities in Syria who could be deployed as monitors, the United Nations said.

The Council is scheduled to vote Sunday on the resolution, which was drafted by France and which the French ambassador, François Delattre, described as an effort to prevent a blood bath — “another Srebrenica,” he said, referring to the massacre of civilians in that besieged city in Bosnia during the Balkans war more than 20 years ago.

The resolution calls on the United Nations to carry out “adequate, neutral monitoring” and report to the Security Council on their findings. It has the backing of the United States.

The Russian envoy, Vitaly I. Churkin, said he objected to the idea of telling United Nations humanitarian staff members to “go wander around the ruins of Aleppo without proper preparation.”

He told reporters on the way into the Security Council chambers: “It has disaster written all over it. This is a provocation.”

Negotiations were underway to overcome Russian objections, diplomats said on Sunday.

At the moment, only monitors from the International Committee of the Red Cross and their local partners with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are on the ground. They do not report to the Security Council.

Source: NYT > World

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