US stance on East Ghouta shows ‘egregious double standards’ – senior Russian diplomat

US stance on East Ghouta shows ‘egregious double standards’ – senior Russian diplomat
The US position on the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta, a militant-controlled suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, is a clear example of "double standards," the Russian deputy foreign minister has said.

Sergey Ryabkov said that Russia is working within the UN Security Council to prepare a resolution on humanitarian issues in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta. His statement comes amid concerns about escalating violence between Syrian government forces and rebel, as well as Islamist, factions operating in the area.

"The work on the draft of the relevant resolution is now being carried out in New York. Humanitarian questions, including humanitarian aid, humanitarian access, have become perhaps the most egregious example of the ‘double standards’ of the United States and their adherents in the approach to the entire Syrian dossier," Sergey Ryabkov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday. "Every day we see how not just selectively but how cynically Washington separates the issues that are beneficial to it, from the point of view of political promotion and pressure on Damascus, from similar situations that create discomfort for Americans for various reasons," the diplomat noted.    

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday that Washington was seriously alarmed by the rising violence in Ghouta. "The United States is deeply concerned by the escalating violence in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta," Nauert told reporters."The escalation is exacerbating the already grave human suffering of nearly 400,000 people. The cessation of violence must begin now, and those needing emergency assistance should be allowed to evacuate immediately.” “The Assad regime’s siege and starve tactics are... adding to the humanitarian disaster there,” she alleged, urging Russia to stop supporting the Syrian government.

Eastern Ghouta is among the de-escalation zones established on May 4, 2017, by three state guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire (Russia, Iran and Turkey.) On Tuesday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on Russia, Iran and Turkey to ensure the ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

"Eastern Ghouta is part of a de-escalation agreement reached in Astana. The Secretary-General reminds all parties, particularly the guarantors of the Astana agreements, of their commitments in this regard," Dujarric said. “The Secretary-General urges all stakeholders to ensure that basic principles of international humanitarian law are adhered to, including unhindered humanitarian access, unconditional medical evacuations, and the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure,” the statement added. According to it, “nearly 400,000 people in Eastern Ghouta have been subjected to airstrikes, shelling and bombardment” and “over 700 individuals require immediate medical evacuation.”

At least nine civilians were injured after residential districts of Damascus came under “massive shelling” conducted by illegal armed groups from Eastern Ghouta, the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said in a statement on Tuesday. The center itself was also shelled by the militants, the statement added.

Armed groups violated the agreement on the de-escalation zone in Eastern Ghouta, shelling several residential areas of the capital on Tuesday, Syrian news agency Sana reported, adding that at least five civilians died and 20 others were injured in the latest wave of violence. The Syrian military said it carried out "precision strikes" on areas from which the shells were launched. Rebel groups and Islamist factions, including the Jaysh al-Islam militant group fighting government forces in Syria, are known to be operating in the area.

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