#SaveGhouta: World leaders react to Eastern Ghouta bombardment

#SaveGhouta: World leaders react to Eastern Ghouta bombardment
World leaders and government officials have sharply criticised the Assad regime for its indiscriminate bombing of Eastern Ghouta.
3 min read
21 Feb, 2018
Smoke rises following a regime airstrike in Eastern Ghouta [Getty]
The Syrian regime led by President Bashar al-Assad continues its bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, located on the outskirts of Damascus and one of the last opposition-held areas in the country.

More than 274 people have been killed – including at least 67 children – as the regime drops bombs indiscriminately on the densely-populated suburb home to 400,000.

Here is how world leaders and government officials have responded:

The US Secretary of State has yet to comment on the Eastern Ghouta bombardment, but State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert had strong words.

"The Assad regime's siege-and-starve tactics are creating a humanitarian disaster – or I should say are adding to the humanitarian disaster there. The horrors of East Aleppo are being repeated in East Ghouta with the ongoing slaughter of trapped civilians and woefully inadequate access for humanitarian actors," she said, during a press briefing.

"[…] Russia must end its support of the Assad regime and its allies. They are responsible for the attacks, for the dire humanitarian situation in East Ghouta, and for the horrendous civilian death toll," she added.

Meanwhile, the UK's Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt said "Assad regime's brutal siege of Eastern Ghouta, coupled with escalating bombardment and reports of chemical weapons use, is causing unprecedented levels of suffering".

"We call on the regime and its backers to cease this campaign of violence, to protect civilians and allow rapid and unhindered humanitarian access," he added.

In Germany, Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffan Seibert demanded the Assad regime "immediately end the massacre in Ghouta and allow in humanitarian aid as well as medical evacation".

"[…] One has to ask where is Russia, where is Iran, which had pledged in Astana to guarantee a ceasefire also in Eastern Ghouta. Without the support of these two allies, Assad's regime would not be where it is today, and undoubtedly, without this support, this regime would have to show more readiness to negotiate in the UN (peace) process," he added.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called for a truce in Eastern Ghouta and said the Syrian regime was using terrorism as a "pretext" for the violence there.

Earlier in the week, France said the bombing violates international law. The attacks "deliberately target inhabited areas and civilian infrastructure, including medical ones".

"They constitute a grave violation of international humanitarian law," the French foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

"These acts engage the responsibility of the Syrian regime, but also that of Russia and Iran, which are its main backers and who, in the framework of the Astana agreements, have vouched for a ceasefire that is supposed to apply to Ghouta," the statement added.

French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian will travel to Russia and Iran in the coming days to reportedly discuss the war in Syria.

Outside of Europe, Syria's main opposition group the Syrian Negotiations Commission called the campaign a "bloodbath" and "war crime" and warned it would pull out of UN-backed peace talks, according to Al Shahid.  

The Arab League also condemned the attacks on Eastern Ghouta. Earlier in the month, Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit called on those that agreed to de-escalate the use of violence to do so. Aboul Gheit also pointed out confirmed reports of chemical weapons use in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib, reported the Saudi Press Agency.

For its part, Assad-ally Russia expressed tacit support for the regime's campaign in Eastern Ghouta. "In keeping with the existing agreements, the fight against terrorism cannot be restricted by anything," Lavrov said in Moscow on Tuesday, according to the Washington Post.

On February 20, UNICEF released a blank statement on Ghouta because "no words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and loved ones".

Agencies contributed to this report.