UNITED NATIONS, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Stephen O'Brien, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, on Thursday proposed a 48-hour pause in the fighting in the Syria's northern city of Aleppo so that a safe, regular and sustained access will be available to the quarter of a million people trapped behind the front lines.
"The situation for people trapped in eastern Aleppo remains of the gravest concern," O'Brien, who is also the UN emergency relief coordinator, said in a statement issued here. "As I told the UN Security Council on Monday, we demand safe, regular and sustained access to the quarter of a million people trapped behind the front lines. All options must be considered."
He said that he was aware of the measures proposed Thursday by the Russian Federation to set up humanitarian corridors.
Media reports suggest that Russia has proposed establishing several so-called "exit corridors" that would allow for the distribution of food, as well as provide an opportunity for civilians to flee the city.
Russia and the Syrian government started a large-scale humanitarian operation to provide assistance to the population of Aleppo, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Thursday.
Aleppo, strategically located near Syria's border with Turkey, is Syria's largest city and once an economic hub, and it is also a focal point of clashes between the Syrian army and the rebels.
"It is critical that the security of any such corridors is guaranteed by all parties and that people are able to use them voluntarily," he said. "No one can be forced to flee, by any specific route or to any particular location. Protection must be guaranteed for all according to the principles of neutrality and impartiality."
"The UN proposal for 48-hour humanitarian pauses to enable cross-line and cross-border operations is what we as humanitarians require," he said. "This is to ensure that we are able to see for ourselves the dire situation of the people, assess their needs, adjust to logistical constraints and assist people where they are now with their life-saving and protection needs."
"In any event, all parties are required and obliged, under long-established and accepted International Humanitarian Law, to allow safe, unimpeded, impartial and immediate humanitarian access for civilians to leave and for aid to come in," he said.
Since relief operations kicked off in February this year, 16 out of the 18 besieged areas have received life-saving assistance, though Arbin and Zamalka located in rural Damascus have yet to be reached.
Latest UN figures show that over 844,000 people living in both hard-to-reach and besieged locations in Syria have received assistance since the start of 2016.
Over the last two weeks, eight terrorist attacks were carried out at positions of Syrian government forces with participation of 21 suicide bombers who used three infantry fighting vehicles and 12 car bombs, which killed over 500 people and injured around 2,000 more, Shoigu noted.
UN spokesperson Alessandra Vellucci said on July 12 that an upsurge in violence in and around Aleppo has blocked the only road providing access to some 300,000 civilians living in eastern parts of the war-torn city.
In a bid to quell the prolonged crisis, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree earlier in the day, offering amnesty to rebels who lay down their arms and surrender to authorities within a three-month deadline starting Thursday.
Also on Thursday, the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told reporters in Geneva that fighting on the ground is impeding humanitarian aid in the Middle East country. He is seriously concerned about Aleppo, saying that the city is de facto besieged, because it is almost completely encircled militarily.
On the humanitarian side, the special envoy is urging the two co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), the Russia Federation and the United States, to expedite discussions on how to reduce violence, along the lines of the meetings in Moscow and then in Laos, particularly between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Farhan Haq, the deputy UN spokesman, told reporters here.
De Mistura said that his deputy special envoy, Ramzy Ezeldine Ramzy, will head to the Syrian capital of Damascus in the next few days to discuss with the Syrian authorities some ideas that the Office of the Special Envoy has developed in order to facilitate the launch in August of the Intra-Syrian Talks.
The special envoy is travelling to Tehran to talk to the Iranian authorities, Haq said.
The UN mediator has been vying to get intra-Syrian talks back on track since negotiations seeking to reach a political agreement by Aug. 1 were put on hold in April this year.
Both the humanitarian situation in the country at war since 2011 and fighting between government troops, opposition forces and terrorist factions have prevented negotiations from resuming.