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Q&A: The Syrian humanitarian crisis
October 16, 2016, 5:16 pm

Children in Aleppo have been particularly vulnerable in the siege of the city; hundreds have been killed in both government and rebel-held districts of the city [Xinhua]

Children in Aleppo have been particularly vulnerable in the siege of the city; hundreds have been killed in both government and rebel-held districts of the city [Xinhua]

The BRICS Post interviewed two signatories to a letter sent to BRICS leaders at the conclusion of the 8th BRICS Summit in Goa, India.

The letter appeals for an urgent response to continued violations of international humanitarian law in Syria.

In addition to calling for a resumption of efforts to end the conflict, the letter calls “upon the BRICS leadership to unreservedly condemn all unlawful attacks on civilians, civilian infrastructure, humanitarian convoys and personnel”.

Mauricio Santoro, Professor of International Relations at Rio de Janeiro State University in Brazil and Jay Naidoo, a Former Minister in the Cabinet of the late President Nelson Mandela in South Africa, spoke with The BRICS Post about the letter.

The BRICS Post: The letter focuses specifically on eastern Aleppo, but there have been reports just this past weekend of deadly attacks on government-held western Aleppo, too. Are the signatories concerned by this?

What about other areas of Syria, for example Debaq, which is coming under a Turkish sponsored offensive now?

Mauricio Santoro: Indeed, the letter has a focus on Aleppo, the greatest symbol, right now, of the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Of course that the other regions of the country are also of great concern to the signatories, Aleppo is just the place from where we can start the conversation and, hopefully, extend it to every place where civilians are at risk.

From my personal point of view as a Brazilian, I care deeply about Syria and Lebanon, home of the parents or grandparents of millions of my countrymen.

I cherish their cultural heritage and the contribution that they made to my country.

There have been reports in some media that US and UK air craft may fire on Russian air craft. How could that affect the dire humanitarian situation?

The possibility of a military clash between the Western powers and Russia in Syria is a huge risk to the humanitarian situation in the country and to international security in a global level.

It could easily escalate into a crisis out of control, such as a proxy war in the Middle East.

It is very important to global leaders to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Yemen is also on the verge of a humanitarian disaster unlike anything the region has seen. Hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of starvation.

Given the recent attack on the funeral hall and the little attention the humanitarian situation is receiving, what do you think BRICS should do? And the International community?

Jay Naidoo: I condemn the propensity to use of violence as a means to solve political and social challenges we face anywhere in the world.

As an anti-apartheid activist and leader of the largest trade union movement in the 1980s and then as a Minister in Nelson Mandela’s Government I have always advocated non-violent action as the only way to secure the peace and to negotiate the differences we have.

I am horrified at the carnage we see in Syria and you correctly say in Yemen and the other parts of the Middle East.

This has not only led to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths especially of civilians including innocent women and children but has seen widespread destruction of property, homes and entire communities that will take decades to recover from.

Today these conflicts and the emergence of sharp differences between major powers such as the United States and Russia stokes the spectre of the destructive ‘Cold War’ again and our countries being used as the theatre for proxy wars between large military powers.

The fact that UNHCR has estimated that there are 65 million refugees flooding into surrounding countries has created the largest humanitarian crisis since the last World War 70 years ago.

We cannot allow this to happen as it threatens the future generations anywhere in the world.

The BRICS represents a powerful centre of political and economic influence who can mediate and use their influence to bring the parties to the table to ensure that a roadmap to permanent peace overseen by the United nations is enforced.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies