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    1st LD Writethru: UN chief calls for immediate halt of hostilities in Eastern Ghouta of Syria

    UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta in Syria.
    “I am deeply saddened by the terrible suffering of the civilian population in Eastern Ghouta, 400,000 people that live in hell on earth,” Guterres told the Security Council before he read out a speech for a debate on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.
    “My appeal to all those involved is for an immediate suspension of all war activities in Eastern Ghouta, allowing humanitarian aid to reach all those in need, allowing for the evacuation of estimated 700 people that need urgent treatment that cannot be provided there, and creating also the possibility for other civilians to be effectively treated on site,” he said.
    “This is a human tragedy that is unfolding in front of our eyes, and I don’t think we can let things go on happening in this horrendous way,” said Guterres.
    He said he understood that the Security Council members are conducting consultations over Syria, but stressed that Eastern Ghouta cannot wait.
    Swedish ambassador to the United Nations, Olof Skoog, told reporters earlier on Wednesday that his delegation and Kuwait’s are drafting a resolution on Syria.
    “We are asking for an immediate cessation of hostilities for 30 days throughout Syria,” said Skoog. The draft resolution also asks for humanitarian access and medical evacuation plus the lifting of siege for four specific locations, including Eastern Ghouta.
    The draft resolution also asks for the protection of hospitals and other medical facilities, and calls on all sides to abide by international humanitarian law, he said.
    Ambassador Jonathan Allen of Britain expressed the hope that the draft resolution could be voted on and passed as soon as possible.
    “The important thing is that the resolution goes to a vote as soon as possible, passes as soon as possible and therefore the cessation of hostilities, the clear will of the Security Council, comes into effect as soon as possible,” he told reporters.
    “At the moment, with the bombardment getting worse and worse, time is running out, and we have to act.”
    Syrian government troops have intensified efforts to retake Eastern Ghouta, the last major rebel stronghold in the country. Airstrikes have caused a dire humanitarian situation in the enclave near the capital city of Damascus.

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