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U.N. Security Council Still Debating Resolution Calling For A Truce In Syria


In Syria, a rebel-held suburb of the capital has been turned into hell on Earth. That's how the U.N. secretary general describes the situation in eastern Ghouta. The Syrian government and its backers have been pounding the area. U.N. officials put the death toll at about 300 in the last few days alone. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports the U.N. Security Council is still debating a resolution calling for a truce.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The scene has become familiar in a war now entering its seventh year. The U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock pleads for a pause in fighting so aid workers can reach civilians who are dying and children who are malnourished in a rebel-held suburb under siege.


MARK LOWCOCK: Humanitarian access is not a nice-to-have. It is a legal requirement. Counter-terrorism efforts cannot supersede the obligation to respect and protect civilians.

KELEMEN: Syria's main backer, Russia, though, accuses everyone of spreading propaganda and rumors. Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya sounded in no mood to compromise in what he calls a fight against terrorism.


VASILY NEBENZYA: (Through interpreter) There is an impression that all of eastern Ghouta is comprised of hospitals alone and that the Syrian army is fighting against those hospitals. This is a well-known tactic in information warfare.

KELEMEN: The Trump administration was represented by Ambassador Kelley Eckels Currie, who says the pictures and videos tell a clear story.


KELLEY ECKELS CURRIE: These are not terrorists showing up in these makeshift emergency rooms. These are civilians. They are ordinary people under attack by a barbaric Assad regime that is bent on leaving eastern Ghouta leveled to the ground.

KELEMEN: And is part of a pattern, she says, similar to the fight for Aleppo and others before that. Sweden and Kuwait are proposing a resolution calling for a 30-day truce, but Russia, which could veto such a measure, wants changes before it comes to a vote possibly tomorrow. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE OF WATERS' "LA SEMANA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.