By Safvan Allahverdi
WASHINGTON (AA) - Russia on Thursday said it will not support a UN Security Council proposal calling for a one-month humanitarian ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta, Syria unless some changes are made.
The Security Council convened earlier in the day to discuss the situation in Eastern Ghouta -- a suburb of Damascus under siege by forces of the Bashar al-Assad regime -- and submit a proposal.
If the proposal is accepted, a ceasefire will be enforced within 72 hours, humanitarian aid convoys will be allowed access and medical evacuations will begin 48 hours later.
Describing the proposal as "not realistic", Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, claimed that "thousands of terrorists" remain in Eastern Ghouta and its fight against terrorism would continue.
"There is no agreement on the proposal," Nebenzia added. "We will submit some amendments."
In response, U.S. Representative to the UN’s Economic and Social Council Kelley Currie accused Russia of blocking "any meaningful effort" to stop the bloodshed in Eastern Ghouta.
Additionally, Sweden's Ambassador to the UN Olof Skoog said humanity has been tested in the Security Council and that they bear a great responsibility to end the crisis in Syria.
U.S. Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock also noted that in the past 24 hours, 50 civilians have been killed and 200 injured and seven hospitals have been targeted due to ongoing conflicts and airstrikes in Eastern Ghouta.
Lowcock emphasized that fighting against terrorism would not legitimize in any way attacks against civilians.
"This is hell on earth," Stephen Hickey, UK Acting Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, said of the crisis.
"The scale of human suffering and destruction is unbearable. The suffering of the Syrian people, while primarily the responsibility of the Syrian regime, brings shame on all of us in this Council."
While the meeting was taking place, a demonstration was held to draw attention to the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta in front of the UN Headquarters.
Eastern Ghouta has been under siege for five years and humanitarian access to the area, which is home to 400,000 people, has been completely cut off. Hundreds of thousands are in urgent need of medical attention.
In the past eight months, forces of the Assad regime have intensified their siege of Eastern Ghouta, making it nearly impossible for food or medicine to get into the district and leaving thousands of patients in need of treatment.