Russia calls for humanitarian ceasefire in Syria
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Last Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 10:11
Moscow: Russia called on Syria Tuesday to immediately accept demands by the International Committee for the Red Cross for a daily two-hour humanitarian truce after talks with the Geneva-based body's head.

The crucial backing from Moscow to exert stronger pressure on its Soviet-era ally came after ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger huddled with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for about 90 minutes.

"The two parties call for the Syrian government and armed groups to immediately agree to a daily humanitarian truce to allow the ICRC access to the wounded and to civilians who need to be evacuated," a Russian foreign ministry statement said.

Moscow "underscored the need to allow the ICRC access to all detained persons in Syria following the protests", against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, the statement said.

Kellenberger then flew to Brussels to ask NATO members to exert similar influence with Syria's rebel forces.

The meetings and simultaneous visit to Syria by teams from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and United Nations come amid frenzied efforts by relief workers to reach thousands of civilians trapped in the escalating violence.

The ICRC in particular has been promoting a daily ceasefire that could be used for delivering aid and bringing the injured to safety after a year of fighting that opposition activists say has claimed more than 9,100 lives.

Kellenberger told the ITAR-TASS news agency before leaving Moscow that he felt "gratified" that Russia shared Western concerns about the humanitarian situation in Syria.

"I would like to note with satisfaction and gratitude that Sergei Lavrov shares our concern about these problems," Kellenberger was quoted as saying.

"As you well understand, Russia's support is very important to us," he said. "The most important issue for us is to ensure humanitarian ceasefires as soon as possible."

Other important questions were free access to detainees and to ensure that prisoners were not ill-treated, he told ITAR-TASS and television channel Vesti 24.

Russia first backed the idea in February and has since stepped up its criticism of Assad after first blocking two UN Security Council resolutions condemning him for the year of bloody violence.

An ICRC spokeswoman in Moscow said the meeting was a part of Kellenberger's broader efforts to get world powers to secure commitments from both sides to put down their arms for a few hours each day.


First Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 10:11

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