The Cable

In Brussels, The Mayor of Eastern Aleppo Makes His Last Diplomatic Stand

As the noose tightens around civilians in the besieged Syrian city.

hasan-crop

As Russian-backed Syrian government forces tighten the noose around the crumbling rebel stronghold of Aleppo, the mayor of Eastern Aleppo made a desperate plea for help in Brussels Thursday. He previewed his appeal in a brief statement Wednesday night:

“I do not ask you to save our narrow streets, our markets, our walls, they are gone

I do not ask you to save the deceased souls, they are gone

I do not ask you to save the freedom, it’s gone

I ask for something more I ask you to save the rest of our lives, our women and children, by opening a corridor.”

In front of a summit of European Union leaders, Brita Hagi Hasan begged the EU to take a “courageous position” of “sending some forces to monitor the evacuation of civilians.” He warned that 50,000 civilians “are about to be victims of a general massacre” in Aleppo if they are not able to escape.

“We never asked any country to go to war…we only ask to save civilians and secure some corridors for their evacuation,” he said.

Russia and Turkey brokered a fragile ceasefire on Wednesday for Syrian government forces to allow wounded people and civilians to flee the city after an earlier ceasefire collapsed.

The new ceasefire doesn’t mean civilians are in the clear, however. At least some pro-government forces reportedly opened fire on rescue workers Thursday morning as the evacuation began. And on Monday, reports emerged that Bashar al-Assad’s government forces organized executions of people trapped in the city, including civilians. Russia also developed a habit of targeting civilians in its airstrikes on Aleppo, coordinated with Assad. In November, Russian and Syrian airstrikes obliterated the last functioning hospital in Eastern Aleppo, leaving the city’s remaining inhabitants without any access to medical aid or surgery in the warzone.

On Dec. 9, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the siege of Aleppo and the ongoing civil war in Syria “the worst catastrophe since World War II.”

Hasan also met with President of the European Council Donald Tusk on Thursday. “The last thing your people in Aleppo need today is more words of sympathy. The only thing you need today is real and effective protection and assistance,” Tusk told Hasan during his meeting. “We should and we will try to do everything we can to help you and the civilians in Aleppo.”

It’s not clear if Tusk can turn words into action. EU officials met Thursday to determine what, if any, actions Brussels will take regarding the crisis in Aleppo. We’ll update the story as they decide.

Photo credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. @robbiegramer

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