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Russia Calls For Humanitarian Ceasefire In Syria

Russia on Monday called for enforcing a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire in un-rest Syria, following a meeting between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and chief of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Moscow.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling on the Syrian government "and all armed groups who oppose it" to agree to proposed ceasefires "without delay".

The statement said Moscow supported the ICRC's demand for the immediate enforcement of the ceasefires, and urged the Syrian government to provide the international organization with "access to all detained persons in Syria following the protests".

The ICRC insists that a daily ceasefire is essential to evacuate the wound from the areas worst affected by the ongoing conflict and to distribute essential commodities like medicines and food to the those trapped by the continued fighting.

Earlier on Monday, ICRC chief Jakob Kellenberger had discussed the proposed ceasefire agreement with Lavrov. He later expressed "satisfaction and gratitude" over Moscow's response to the proposed ceasefire, stressing that further onslaught on unrest-hit cities by the Syrian regime was "absolutely unacceptable".

"The most important issue for us is to ensure humanitarian ceasefires as soon as possible," Kellenberger was quoted as saying by the Russian media after his talks with Lavrov, which came amidst fierce fighting between Syrian security forces and opposition fighters at several locations in the Syrian capital city of Damascus.

A day earlier, Kofi Annan, special envoy on Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League, had said that he was sending a team to Syria over the weekend to follow up the proposals he had put before the regime while on a visit to Damascus last week.

Annan's proposals include an immediate ceasefire by both sides, access for humanitarian aid and establishing credibility as well as confidence for the political process when it is initiated. The Syrian government has said that it is prepared to co-operate with Annan while continuing to fight "terrorism".

Syria has been witnessing a popular uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, while the government continues to use heavy artillery and armed troops to put down the unrest in Syrian cities and towns. The UN estimates more than 8,000 people have been killed in Syria since the unrest began a year ago.

The Syrian government, however, blames "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign mercenaries for the violence. The regime claims that about 1,345 of its security personnel have died in the violence and puts the number of civilians killed so far below 2,500.

The United Nations Security Council has been divided over its response to the Syrian crisis. China and Russia, had vetoed a West-backed resolution endorsing an Arab League plan for Syria at the UN Security Council (UNSC) on February 4. The move had evoked strong criticisms from the West as well as the Arab nations. Incidentally, the two nations had jointly vetoed a Western resolution condemning repression in Syria in October.

Despite opposition from China and Russia at the UN to take unified actions against the Syrian regime, the EU, the US and Turkey have imposed several rounds of sanctions on the Arab country. They have also indicated plans to tighten the sanctions if the crisis is not resolved quickly.

UN diplomats say Western nations as well as their Arab allies are expected to table a US-drafted resolution at the UNSC soon. The resolution reportedly seeks access for humanitarian aid workers to besieged Syrian towns and an end to the ongoing violence. It will be a blow to the Syrian regime if the resolution is adopted with the support of Russia and China.

by RTT Staff Writer

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