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U.N. Security Council Votes To Send Observers To Eastern Aleppo


Today the U.N. Security Council has voted to send observers to eastern Aleppo, and the resolution calls on the secretary general to make the security arrangements quickly, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The resolution passed unanimously, but it took French diplomats time to get Russia on board, time that civilians in Aleppo might not have. Moscow is backing the Syrian government and helping it tighten the noose around the remaining rebel-held areas of eastern Aleppo, and the U.S. ambassador Samantha Power says observers are needed now.

SAMANTHA POWER: The evacuations have been chaotic. They have been brutal. People have waited out in the freezing cold. Indeed overnight, we received reports of death by overexposure as they wait for their besiegers to deign to give them license to depart.

KELEMEN: There have been reports that men are being separated from their families as they leave, and valuables have been stolen from desperate civilians. Power says the hope is that having the U.N. and other international observers in eastern Aleppo in parts of the city now under government control, they can deter such acts. First, though, the resolution needs to be implemented.

POWER: It's an important step that I think a couple of days ago people would not have thought the Russian Federation would have allowed go through the council. But until it's implemented, it's just a piece of paper.

KELEMEN: Syria's ambassador to the U.N., Bashar al-Jaafari, accuses the U.S., the French and others of trying to protect terrorists in Aleppo. And he says no one should expect any more observers than are already there.


BASHAR AL-JAAFARI: The resolution talks about observers who are there. ICRC, Syrian Arab Red Crescent, OCHA, United Nations - all of them are there. Nobody else will come from outside of this people who are still there.

KELEMEN: Ambassador Power says there should be a warning label on the microphone every time the Syrian ambassador speaks.

POWER: Just like on cigarette boxes, there's, like, a smoker's warning, you know? Warning - this may be hazardous to your health. There should be, like, a smoker's warning here every time he opens his mouth because almost nothing that he has said over the life of this conflict has been true.

KELEMEN: She says the Syrian government doesn't want more monitors because they don't want anyone to know about their crimes. The U.S. is hoping the U.N. moves quickly and doesn't forget about the hundreds of thousands of Syrians living under siege elsewhere in the country. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric says there are just over 100 U.N. staffers, most of them Syrians already in the Aleppo area who could act as observers.

STEPHANE DUJARRIC: We also have staff from Damascus who could be moved on a fairly quick notice.

KELEMEN: But they would need security guarantees from all the warring parties and access, which, as the U.N. spokesman points out, has been hard to come by in this war. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. 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.