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Syria: the "worst humanitarian disaster in years"


The ongoing Syrian conflict represents one of the worst humanitarian disasters the world has seen in years, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says.

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There are reports of mass civilian casualties in the city of Aleppo and humanitarian assistance is desperately required.

“This is one of the worst humanitarian disasters that we have witnessed in many, many years,” she told Sky News on Wednesday.

Bishop said Australia has been calling for a ceasefire and for humanitarian corridors to be set up so civilians can leave and aid get through.

The conflict has been beset with claims and counter-claims, which she witnessed first hand during international meetings.

“Russia and the United States must find a way forward to stop the killing and to allow humanitarian relief to be provided to the suffering people of Aleppo,” she told ABC radio.

The minister again reiterated the need for a political solution.

“To say that (President) Assad must go, I’m afraid that moment passed a long time ago.”

Reports of executions in Aleppo must be investigated, Bishop said.

Meanwhile, the US ambassador to the UN says the Syrian government and its allies are behind “the conquest of and carnage in Aleppo”.

Samantha Power told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that Syria, Russia and Iran are responsible for what UN humanitarian aid spokesman Jens Laerke called the “complete meltdown of humanity” and are showing no mercy to civilians on the ground.

“Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can shame you?” Power asked.

“Is there no act of barbarism, no execution of a child that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit? Is there nothing that you will not lie about or justify?”

Russian ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin shot back at Power, saying she delivered a statement “as if she was Mother Teresa”.

“Please remember what country you’re representing – remember your own country’s track record and then you can start opining from the position of moral supremacy,” Churkin said.

During the briefing, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that the UN had received “credible reports of scores of civilians being killed either by intense bombardment or summary executions by pro-government forces”.

Ban said that civilians, including women and children, were being rounded up and executed in four neighbourhoods of eastern Aleppo.

He said the UN had no access to the city making independent verification impossible but noted that it was confident that the civilians in opposition-controlled pockets of eastern Aleppo numbered “in the thousands”.

Churkin rejected allegations of atrocities being committed against civilians in Aleppo, noting that Russia had received no such information.

– AAP and agencies

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