Italy welcomes upcoming Brussels conference on Syria

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Brussels, March 19 (IANS/AKI) Italy views the conference on Syria taking place in Brussels on April 24-25 as a chance to highlight “the terrible humanitarian and security situation” in the war-wracked country, Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said on Monday.

“Italy welcomes the forthcoming conference on Syria as an opportunity to attract attention to the terrible humanitarian and security situation,” Alfano told reporters on the sidelines of a summit of European foreign ministers in Brussels.

European Union nations must neither rebuild nor stabilise areas of Syria under government control until the country’s political transition was “well underway”, he said.

Alfano said Italy “shared all the same feelings of frustration over the brutal assault on Syria’s Eastern Ghouta area”.

The agricultural area outside Damascus has been under bombardment by the Syrian government and its allies since February 18 despite a unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution adopted ten days later that urged a 30-day cease-fire in Syria and the immediate lifting of the siege that began in eastern Ghouta in April 2013.

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“We must not stop pushing for the implementation of the ceasefire and for humanitarian access… we need to keep backing all initiatives to ensure those responsible for crimes committed in eastern Ghouta and elsewhere are brought to justice.

“We are also concerned about the increased violence in other areas of Syria,” Alfano said.

Over 1,250 people have been killed in the bombardment of eastern Ghouta in the past two months and tens of thousands of people have fled the fighting, according to the UN.

Government forces have retaken about 80 percent of the Damascus suburb, the last major rebel enclave near the capital, where around 340,000 remaining residents are suffering from acute food shortages and a lack of medical supplies.

The UN office for humanitarian affairs (OCHA) said in a statement on Thursday conditions for those remaining in eastern Ghouta were “dire”.

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In Syria’s northwest Idlib province, thousands are facing constant airstrikes, chronic shortages of food and medicine, and widespread unemployment, according to international humanitarian organisations.

–IANS/AKI

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