U.N. wants Russia to agree 'workable humanitarian pause' in Aleppo

By Stephanie Nebehay

By Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Thursday it was talking to Russia about a "workable humanitarian pause" in fighting in Aleppo and that three hours a day was "not enough" to help up to two million civilians trapped in the divided Syrian city. The U.N. wants a 48-hour weekly halt to the violence in order to deliver large amounts of food and other aid and to evacuate the sick and wounded. "Today in the meeting the Russian delegation confirmed their willingness to sit down with us (Thursday and Friday) to try to agree on a workable humanitarian pause for us to go the Aleppo road way to help the poor people of east as well as in the west," U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland told reporters. Egeland, speaking after chairing a weekly meeting of the humanitarian task force composed of major and regional powers, was referring to the Castello road, the main supply route into the rebel-held east, cut off by the Syrian government. "We need 48 hours because the people are so many that the convoys have to be big, the road is so destroyed, it is mined, there are so many dangers, the logistics are so enormous that we do need time - each week we need 48 hours," Egeland said. U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said: "We are available and interested in talking to ensure that the three hours could not be simply as a declaration and then nothing happens. The rest will depend on the further discussions with the Russians." De Mistura also said that senior military officials from Russia and the United States are still working on restoring an overall ceasefire after five years of civil war that has killed a quarter of a million people and displaced 11 million. "Russian and American teams have been meeting in this building, they are focusing on the Castello road developments, no doubt, and on general new approaches for a reduction in violence." At least four people died and many suffered breathing difficulties when a gas, believed to be chlorine, was dropped alongside barrel bombs on an Aleppo neighborhood on Wednesday, a hospital and a civil defense group told Reuters. De Mistura, asked about the reports, replied: "It's really not for me to assess who did it and whether it actually took place, although there is a lot of evidence that it actually did take place. "We have a special U.N. and other organizations addressing that. But if it did take place, it is a war crime." (Editing by Louise Ireland)