UNITED NATIONS The U.N. Security Council will discuss the alarming humanitarian situation in Syria and the recent displacement of tens of thousands of people fleeing a Russian-backed assault around Aleppo, New Zealand's U.N. envoy said on Tuesday.
The closed-door consultations are scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET (1630 GMT) on Wednesday and were jointly requested by New Zealand and Spain, backed by other Western powers.
"There are reports of at least 30,000 people displaced from Aleppo and it's the middle of winter," New Zealand Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen said in a statement to Reuters. "New Zealand and Spain considered this was a situation the Security Council could not ignore."
Hundreds of thousands of civilians could be cut off from food if Syrian government forces encircle rebel-held parts of Aleppo, the United Nations said on Tuesday, warning of a new exodus of refugees fleeing a Russian-backed assault.
It was not clear what, if anything, the 15-nation Security Council will agree on Wednesday. The council usually finds it difficult to reach consensus on Syria because Russia, one of the five permanent veto powers, strongly backs the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The council session comes just ahead of a crucial meeting of major powers in Germany.
International powers, including Russia, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Iran, are due to meet on Thursday in Munich in a bid to resurrect the talks. But diplomats have little hope for negotiations as long as the offensive continues. Rebels say they will not attend without a halt to the bombing.
Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air strikes and Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, have launched a major offensive in the countryside around Aleppo, which has been divided between government and rebel control for years.
It marks one of the most important shifts of momentum in the five-year civil war that has killed 250,000 people and already driven 11 million from their homes.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russia on Tuesday to join efforts to bring about a ceasefire.
"Russia's activities from Aleppo and in the region are making it much more difficult to be able to come to the table and be able to have a serious conversation," Kerry told reporters.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Bernard Orr)
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