GENEVA – The United Nations mediator for the Syrian peace talks taking place in Geneva said on Tuesday Syria’s government had accepted a ceasefire on a besieged rebel-controlled territory near the capital, Damascus, where dozens of people have lost their lives in relentless aerial bombardments.
Speaking to press on the eve of the UN-backed negotiations, Staffan de Mistura said Russia’s proposal to implement a 48-hour cessation of hostilities in Eastern Ghouta had been accepted by the Syrian government. The region had already been listed as one of the de-escalation zones drawn up by Moscow and Damascus.
“So now we need to see whether this takes place,” the Italian-Swedish diplomat said, just hours before he sits down separately with a delegation from the Syrian regime and a coalition of rebel representatives in the latest bid for consensus on how to end the civil war.
De Mistura stressed the UN’s concern for the current situation in the territory.
An epa photographer based in the Eastern Ghouta city of Douma has documented the human toll of the recent daily bombings, reporting that dozens of people, including children, have been killed since the weekend.
Following a fresh bombardment on Tuesday morning, a poorly equipped field clinic was again full of patients suffering from lacerations and trauma, some of whom had to find space on the blood-stained floor until beds freed up, as evident in epa images.
At least one missile smashed into a food market in central Douma and an image captured by epa depicted shucks of corn covered in fresh human blood.
Eastern Ghouta, a network of small cities surrounded by once fertile farmland that stretches northeast of the Damascus sprawl, is currently in the hands of a loose collection of mainly Islamist rebel groups and has been besieged by forces loyal to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad for years.
It was one of the first regions to come under rebel control at the onset of war in 2011 and six years later is one of the last territories that remains outside Assad’s powers.