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NZ takes aim over Aleppo atrocities

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 13/12/2016

The country's top diplomat at the United Nations has taken aim at Russia after reports emerged of Syrian pro-government forces slaughtering civilians in the streets of Aleppo.

Gerard van Bohemen, New Zealand's permanent representative to the United Nations, had the superpower in his sights when he told the UN Security Council that it had failed the people of the city and likened its inaction to that which allowed genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

"Then as now, there were credible reports coming in of atrocities being committed. Then as now there was someone at the table, a party to the conflict that had their own views," he said.

Russia had used its veto six times since 2011 to block a Security Council resolution on Syria, most recently when it rejected a seven-day truce last week, which New Zealand helped draft.

"It (the veto) is a cynical attempt to use a provision to advance military aims of one of the participants to the conflict," said Mr Van Bohemen.

The United Nations said it had reports that Syrian soldiers and allied fighters had summarily shot dead 82 civilians in recaptured districts of Aleppo with Britain's UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft saying "they have gone from siege to slaughter".

Russia's UN envoy said the Syrian government's offensive in Aleppo, which was backed by Russia and Iran, was over and an agreement had been struck for rebels to evacuate the north-western city and civilians would be unharmed.

UN Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura told reporters after the meeting that the United Nations wants its representatives to be allowed to be there when civilians are evacuated and opposition fighters withdraw.

De Mistura said there were an estimated 50,000 civilians still in rebel-held territory of Aleppo, along with 1500 opposition fighters.

Mr Van Bohemen said it needed to act now to save lives.

"We need to get the United Nations able to help people both who want to leave be allowed to leave and those who need humanitarian assistance to get it when they can," he said.

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