Civilians in Aleppo in desperate need of help

'Serious atrocities are being committed against the civilian population in Aleppo. The conflicting parties need to respect humanitarian law and comply with the United Nations' appeal for a pause in hostilities. Norway supports the humanitarian actors in Aleppo and the surrounding regions. If access is now granted, Norway will increase this support,' said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

The Minister is deeply concerned about the humanitarian conditions for civilians in Aleppo now that the Syrian regime's military forces have besieged the eastern part of the city and cut off all humanitarian access to the area. Civilians are exposed to further pressure when rebels groups counterattack in an attempt to break the regime's siege. The UN has called for weekly 48-hour humanitarian pauses in the fighting.

'Since early July it has been impossible to get humanitarian assistance into the eastern part of Aleppo,' said Mr Brende. 'Using access to humanitarian assistance as a tool of warfare is unacceptable. Critical infrastructure necessary for supplying water and electricity has also been damaged and causes an acute lack of clean drinking water in all of Aleppo.

'Measures must quickly be implemented in order to get emergency help to civilians. If the only possibility is by aircraft, then that is something we must seriously consider, even if it were a very difficult operation. The most important thing in the current situation is to put pressure on the parties to accept that civilians must get the help they need. The parties must also give the UN room so that an absolutely necessary repair of the water and electricity plants can be carried out.'

In eastern Aleppo, which is controlled by rebels and under attack by the government regime and its allies, the UN estimates up to 275,000 people are living under unbearably difficult conditions. In recent weeks there have been very intense hostilities in an around Aleppo, which have against humanitarian principles directly affected civilians, medical facilities and civil infrastructure.

'Only a political solution can put a final end to the suffering,' said Mr Brende. 'The parties on the ground and regional actors need to take responsibility and realise that this can no longer continue. I am in constant contact with colleagues and will, among other things, take up the matter in Aleppo during my visit to Iran this week. I will also take the opportunity to underscore our support to the UN and Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura's efforts towards reaching a political solution.'

The humanitarian needs in Syria are great. More than 1.3 million people require humanitarian assistance in Syria. In addition to acute emergency aid, Norway also supports more long-term foreign aid towards food security, agriculture and reconstruction of destroyed homes. Norway will contribute more than NOK 2.4 billion to the Syria crisis in 2016.