UNITED NATIONS >> An emergency meeting of the Security Council has been called to consider the situation in war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo, France’s ambassador to the United Nations said today.
Francois Delattre told reporters outside Security Council chambers that his country and Germany asked for the meeting. He said if an agreement can’t be reached on safely evacuating civilians and enabling humanitarian aid into the besieged city under the eye of international observers, France and its partners could call for an emergency special session of the 193-member General Assembly.
Delattre said France had already begun drafting a resolution for consideration by the council.
Evacuations from eastern Aleppo sealed the end of the Syrian rebels’ most important stronghold and marked a watershed moment in the country’s civil war, now in its sixth year.
An overnight evacuation effort stalled after an eruption of gunfire raised fears that a peaceful surrender of the opposition enclave could fall apart with thousands of people believed to be still inside.
Delattre said the council meeting would include a briefing by U.N. humanitarian affairs chief Stephen O’Brien. “We keep having conflicting reports about what exactly is happening on the ground,” he said.
Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad in his war with opposition rebel groups. Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said the most urgent task in Syria now is to end all military activities and resume negotiations between the government and opposition.
Churkin told the Security Council today that “Damascus has more than once confirmed its readiness to take part in these negotiations.”
New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully told Security Council members prior to a closed meeting on Aleppo that the council has so far been unable to meet its responsibilities of removing civilians and providing humanitarian aid to the city.
“Unless that is going to change, it is our view that an emergency special session of the General Assembly is an appropriate next step,” he said.
Outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the U.N. stands ready to help rescue as many people as possible — even as the overnight rescue operation had to be suspended.
Speaking to reporters during his final news conference at U.N. headquarters today, Ban called the war in Syria “heart-breaking for me.”
Still, he said thousands of people were evacuated from eastern Aleppo overnight with the help of U.N. agencies, the Red Cross and the Arab Red Crescent, including 194 patients who were moved into hospitals in other parts of Syria and Turkey.
“I feel very much regret we had to stop this operation at this time,” he said.