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UN urges ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Syria to help quake aid

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The United Nations rights chief called Friday for an immediate ceasefire in Syria to facilitate the delivery of aid to all victims of the region’s devastating earthquake, Agence France-Presse reported.

“At this terrible time in Turkey and Syria, we call for urgent delivery of assistance to ALL in need,” the UN rights office said in a tweet.

“UN human rights chief Volker Turk calls for immediate ceasefire in Syria, and full respect for human rights and humanitarian law obligations so help can reach everyone,” it added.

The call came as rescue workers continued their search for survivors in the rubble of the 7.8 magnitude quake that hit Turkey and Syria on Monday, with the death toll approaching 24,000.

The UN security council will meet on Syria — likely early next week — according to Swiss envoy Pascale Baeriswyl, who initiated the meeting along with Brazil. The two non-permanent members are in charge of the Syria humanitarian file.

At the session, the council will hear from UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths, who is to visit Turkey and Syria this weekend.

“He will be conducting an evaluation as to what the effective situation is, where the bottlenecks for the delivery of aid exist, and in how best members the council can address that,” said Brazilian ambassador to the UN Ronaldo Costa Filho said of Griffiths.

At least 3,553 people have died in Syria, where more than a decade of civil war and Syrian-Russian aerial bombardment had already destroyed hospitals, collapsed the economy, and prompted electricity, fuel, and water shortages.

The rebel-held areas of Syria near Turkey’s border are in a particularly dire situation since they cannot receive aid from government-held parts of Syria without Damascus’s authorization.

At the same time, Bab al-Hawa — the sole border crossing used to shuttle life-saving aid from Turkey into conflict-ravaged Syria — has seen its operations disrupted by the deadly earthquake.

Even before the tremor, the UN had repeatedly stressed the need to open more border crossings to make it easier to get aid through.

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