Politics, Americas

US lawmakers urge Pompeo to pressure Assad, Russia

Reps. Michael McCaul, Eliot Engel call for continued diplomatic action to hold Syrian regime and its backers accountable

Servet Gunerigok   | 21.02.2020
US lawmakers urge Pompeo to pressure Assad, Russia

WASHINGTON 

Two U.S. lawmakers voiced concern Thursday over the carnage in Syria's Idlib province and urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to take diplomatic action against the Syrian regime and Russia.

In a bipartisan letter to Pompeo, Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas and Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York urged the top diplomat to impose economic sanctions on those responsible for the Idlib offensive.

The province has been the scene of an ongoing offensive by forces of the Bashar al-Assad regime backed by Russia which has displaced nearly 900,000 civilians since December.

McCaul and Engel also called for continued diplomatic action to hold Assad and Russia accountable.

"We urge you to enhance diplomatic action to ensure that Russia and Assad cannot further undermine the international response to the humanitarian crisis that they created," said the lawmakers.

UN humanitarian affairs chief Mark Lowcock said Wednesday that the conflict in northwest Syria is forcing people to flee "under horrendous conditions."

Many others are on foot or on the backs of trucks in below-freezing temperatures, Lowcock said during a briefing to the UN Security Council on the humanitarian situation in the region.

"They are moving into increasingly crowded areas they think will be safer. But in Idlib, nowhere is safe.”

He said nearly 50,000 people are sheltering under trees or in other open spaces.

"I am getting daily reports of babies and other young children dying in the cold. Imagine the grief of a parent who escaped a warzone with their child, only to watch that child freeze to death."

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Since then, however, more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces, flouting the 2018 ceasefire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.

The Syrian regime's advances have sent hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing toward the border with Turkey, which already hosts more than 3.7 million refugees.

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