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Russia Quits UN System on Syria Hospitals, Aid

Russia Quits UN System on Syria Hospitals, Aid

Thursday, 25 June, 2020 - 18:30
FILE PHOTO: People inspect damage in Omar Bin Abdulaziz hospital, in Aleppo, Syria November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail/File Photo

Russia has quit a United Nations arrangement that aimed to protect hospitals and humanitarian aid deliveries in Syria from being hit by the warring parties, according to a UN note to aid groups seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The Russian move comes after an internal UN inquiry in April found it was "highly probable" the government of Syria or its allies carried out attacks on three healthcare facilities, a school and a refuge for children in northwest Syria last year.

Russia and Syria have said their forces are not targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure and have long-questioned the sources used by the United Nations to verify attacks.

Under the UN deconfliction arrangement, the locations of UN supported facilities and other humanitarian sites like hospitals and health centers had been shared with the warring parties in a bid to protect them. However, the United Nations has questioned whether it made them a target.

"On Tuesday, 23 June, the Russian Federation informed the United Nations that it would no longer participate in the humanitarian notification system," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in the note.

An OCHA spokeswoman confirmed the note.

"The United Nations is concerned about the withdrawal of the Russian Federation from the notification mechanism and is examining the implications of this decision for humanitarian personnel and operations in Syria," the UN note said.

The United Nations said it would discuss the situation further with Russia.

In the note it said all parties to the conflict – whether they participated in the voluntary deconfliction arrangement or not - were still bound by international humanitarian law.

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