ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The leader of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) expressed support on Wednesday for an initiative by French President Emmanuel Macron to rally United Nations’ Security Council members behind a worldwide military truce amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The international initiative led by President @EmmanuelMacron to support the UN call for a global ceasefire so the world can focus on the coronavirus epidemic is a good step and humanitarian initiative that requires all forces to support it, to save the world and build a better future,” SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazlum Abdi said in a tweet.
Macron has said he’s already secured the agreement of three of the five permanent members of the United Nations’ Security Council, each with veto power over council resolutions, to join his initiative, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
The initial appeal issued in late March by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged warring parties across the world to “lay down their weapons to support the bigger battle against COVID-19.”
The SDF’s General Command declared its support for the UN plea and commitment to global efforts to fight the coronavirus on March 24, the following day. It warned that, as a result of Syria’s health system being ravaged by almost a decade of war, any renewal of hostilities would cause more displacement that would severely affect the remaining health infrastructure and lead to an increased spread of the virus.
Guterres then welcomed the statement by the SDF and called “on other parties to the Syrian conflict to support his appeal.”
After Turkey intervened in northeastern Syria in October, Russia and the United States reached separate ceasefire deals with Turkey which that allowed it to control the area between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain (Serikaniye). Despite the agreements, Turkish-backed groups continue to periodically shell areas held by the SDF.
“Technically, there has been a ceasefire in place since October last year, but in reality, Turkey and Turkish-backed forces commit daily violations, including shelling civilian areas and water infrastructure, resulting in civilian casualties and deaths,” Thomas McClure, a Syria-based researcher at the Rojava Information Center, told Kurdistan 24.
“SDF’s call for a ceasefire in line with the UN statement is an acknowledgement that coronavirus does not recognize military frontlines, and that its spread through regime-held areas of Syria can be best halted if all parties to the conflict are able to focus fully on caring for civilians in their zone of control.”
With the weak health system in Syria, the virus’ spread through the region is likely to prove catastrophic, he added.
“Doctors need all the help they can get to prepare, rather than being forced to stitch up war-wounded and civilians caught in the crossfire.”
The local administration has taken several precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic such as shutting down public places, quarantining travellers coming from rebel-held or Syrian government-held areas, and imposing a curfew.
So far, there have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in northeast Syria.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 25 infections in Syria, including two deaths, but multiple reports show that Damascus is significantly underreporting infections in the war-torn nation.
Editing by John J. Catherine