UN needs Aleppo extended truce to allow aid deliveries
UNITED NATIONS - The UN on Wednesday dashed hopes that a proposed fighting pause in east Aleppo would allow aid to reach besieged civilians, saying all sides needed to back an extended ceasefire before humanitarian convoys could roll.
Russia, which is supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, has announced its side would halt fighting for 11 hours in rebel-held east Aleppo from 0500 GMT on Thursday.
Moscow had previously offered an eight-hour truce while Damascus has not yet pledged to honour the deal and rebel groups have indicated they will not abandon their posts.
"Before we can do something really meaningful... we need assurances from all parties," said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the United Nations humanitarian agency (OCHA) in Geneva.
"It's great when the guns fall silent but we need all the guns to fall silent," told journalists.
Laerke stressed that the UN also needs fighting to stop for "a minimum of 48 hours", with Russia's proposal insufficient for UN teams to mobilise.
Aside from getting desperately needed supplies to east Aleppo's estimated 250,000 civilians, the UN also wants to evacuate hundreds of people in urgent need of medical care.
UN and Red Cross trucks packed with aid for east Aleppo have been stalled near the Turkish border for weeks, waiting for guarantees that they can safely make deliveries.
Moscow has said Thursday's proposed truce could give civilians an opportunity to flee the city.
There has been a pause in air strikes over east Aleppo since Tuesday, a lull Russia says could allow residents time to prepare to leave.
Syrian and Russian jets have been bombarding the area in a brutal offensive to retake the key city from rebel fighters.
While Washington has voiced scepticism over the prospects for Thursday's truce, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were set to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Berlin to push for a broader ceasefire.