UK summons Russian ambassador over Eastern Ghouta

The British government has summoned Russian Ambassador to the U.K., Alexander Yakovenko, to stress the U.K.’s concern at the current situation in Syria’s besieged enclave Eastern Ghouta, a government statement said Tuesday, APA reports quoting Anadolu agency.


Minister of State for Europe and the Americas Sir Alan Duncan met the Russian ambassador at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, according to the statement.


The meeting was held “to stress U.K. concern at the current situation in Syria, particularly the crisis in Eastern Ghouta and the need for a cease-fire as stipulated in Resolution 2401 passed by the UN Security Council last weekend”.


Reiterating his government’s deep concern about continued attacks by pro-regime forces in eastern Ghouta, Duncan urged Russia to use its influence on the Assad regime to end such attacks over the enclave, “where an estimated 400,000 people have been under siege since 2013".


Echoing Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who on Monday urged a "full investigation into reports of chemical weapon use" in Eastern Ghouta, Duncan also voiced the U.K.’s concern over such reports.


Duncan “welcomed the fact that all UN Security Council members, including Russia, had voted in favour of a cease-fire and underlined Russia’s obligations to adhere to its commitments to ensure that UNSCR 2401 was implemented in full,” it said.


“Minister Duncan urged Russia to use its influence to ensure the Syrian regime adhered to the cease-fire in order to allow rapid, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access and non-conditional medical evacuations, which are urgently needed across Syria, but particularly Eastern Ghouta,” the statement added.


It said only one convoy of humanitarian aid has accessed Eastern Ghouta since November and the aid reached only 2.6 percent of people in need.


“Humanitarian pauses of limited duration are no substitute for a sustained cease-fire,” it said.


Duncan also “underlined that the violence in Syria reinforces the urgency of achieving a political solution, as called for by the UN Security Council, and urged Russia to work with the international community to achieve this”.


On Monday, Johnson said, “the Assad regime must allow the UN to deliver those supplies, in compliance with Resolution 2401, and we look forward to Russia and Iran to making sure this happens, in accordance with their own promises”.


“The international community has united behind the path to a solution laid out in UN Resolution 2254 and Russia has stated its wish to achieve a political solution under the auspices of the UN,” he said.


“Today, only the Assad regime stands in the way of progress. I urge Russia to use all its influence to bring the Assad regime to the negotiating table and take the steps towards peace that Syria’s people so desperately need,” he added.


The British reaction came following the latest situation in Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, which has been under siege for the last five years and humanitarian access to the area, which is home to some 400,000 people, has been completely cut off.


In the past eight months, Assad regime forces 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.


Since Feb. 19, escalating hostilities have resulted in 500 deaths and some 1,500 injuries in Eastern Ghouta, with 24 health facilities impacted by shelling and airstrikes, according to UN officials.

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