Dutch FM: More pressure on Syrian gov. to avoid "Srebrenica" in Aleppo

Syrian asylum seekers (Photo: Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons)Syrian asylum seekers (Photo: Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons)

Minister Bert Koenders of Foreign Affairs is calling on the international community to increase pressure on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. This is the only way that a genocide, like what happened in Rwanda and Srebrenica, can be avoided in the Syrian city of Aleppo, he wrote in an opinion piece published in British newspaper The Independent.

Koenders referred to the current situation in Aleppo, where about 300 thousand people are trapped after the Syrian army, with the help of Russia, captured the last entrance to the city. "300 thousand people are now effectively besieged in Aleppo." Koenders wrote.

According to him, a "despicable attack" on a maternity ward last Friday shows that the United Nations was right to describe the current situation in the city as "medieval and shameful". "Not unlike Rwanda or Srebrenica, there is a real risk that the name 'Aleppo' will become synonymous with the world's failure to act."

The UN humanitarian agency proposed opening regular 48-hour humanitarian corridors, which will allow the delivery of the most essential aid to the inhabitants of Aleppo. Koenders calls this "the lowest common denominator, a starting point", adding that it is essential that this agreement is led and facilitated by a neutral third party like the United Nations. "It should be clear that the 300,000 people in this city can not be left to the Assad regime and its supporters. That is a legacy we cannot afford."

The Dutch minister is concerned that the current almost exclusionary international focus on fighting terrorist groups like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, is playing in the hands of the Assad regime, who is spreading the "false narrative" that extremism is the root cause of the problems in Syria. "An assertion that ignores the fact that the regime employs brutal violence against its own people on a daily basis."

According to Koenders, Assad is using ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra as "strategic assets" in order to "portray himself as the lesser of two evils, urging the world to back him in the fight against terrorism". The minister warns that this approach is "dangerously short sighted". "As long as Assad's brutality is allowed to continue, civilians will suffer; instability will persist and extremism will continue to flourish."