Andrea Riccardi launches campaign to save Aleppo

Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant'Egidio Community, during the press conference for the launch of the signature campaign to save Aleppo, a city of culture and dialogue, says the crisis in Syria and stresses the importance of this city as a point historical, cultural and, above all, dialogue and coexistence of different ethnic groups.

Andrea Riccardi, riccardi andrea, Syria, Aleppo, Syria (Country), Community of Sant'Egidio, pacified areas, peace, #savealeppo, savealeppo
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[Andrea Riccardi]: "Thank you, thank Guido Bossa. I thank you all for coming here. We want to insist on the appeal for Aleppo, because Aleppo is the focus of fierce war in Syria, which is located in the tip clashes among several parties to the conflict: ISIS, the Dā'ish (advancing from the east), the army of Damascus (which is resistant to the south) and the rebels of the Free Syrian Army (pushing from the west). In addition, there are other groups from Idlib (west) and there is Al-Nusra Front. You realize, from these rapid recalls, the complexity of the situation, a situation tangled and insoluble: each actor can encircle the other in an endless battle. In the meantime Aleppo dies. We are seeing, for more then two years, the agony of a city, the destruction of its monuments. I will remember that Aleppo is a world heritage site, three thousand years of history, at least: the place of passage of the "Silk Way", the Citadel, millenarian Souq, the beautiful museum, with these incredible figures of Baal. But beyond this, Aleppo was the city of coexistence, "The sweet town" called; They lived there Christians and Muslims, and among Christians many Armenians, much of which had taken refuge during the massacres of hundred years ago, in 1915, they had taken refuge in Aleppo and were welcomed in Aleppo. It was the city of mythical Baron Hotel, managed by the Armenians, where Churchill, where Lawrence of Arabia had passed. Today all this is going to be destroyed. It is going to be destroyed a world of coexistence, cohabitation, living together. This, to me, is the drama: with each passing day, Aleppo dies. Dies because it is under this incredible siege. From a historical point of view, I think, it never happened that a city was besieged like that: one besieges the other. So we have launched, on June 22, an appeal for Aleppo, and it has begun a campaign collecting signatures of personalities and common people. Among the signatures stand out those of Nobel Desmond Tutu, that he has made to know, let's say, how he feels this battle, Pérez Esquivel and over 100 Italian parliamentarians. I would like describe the journey that this appeal has made, the path that our wok has made: contacts with the UN, in particular Valerie Amos, who is deputy secretary of the UN, assigned to humanitarian assistance, because here there is an appeal in the appeal ... there is the idea of ​​opening humanitarian corridors, humanitarian corridors in a city where they have to stop fighting: making Aleppo a free city, a city where they do not fight. In this sense, they joined Gianni Pittella, leader of the Socialists and Democrats in Europe; we talked with UNESCO, which is particularly interested in the story of Aleppo (Irina Bokova, who is general director of UNESCO, was here at Sant'Egidio); It is moving the European Parliament and there was an important contact with Martin Schulz; I myself, as recalled Guido Bossa, spoke in Moscow with Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergei Lavrov, on the issue of protection of Christian communities and on the appeal of Aleppo, focusing on the idea of ​​areas of pacification: the Syrian situation is not solvable, we need to create areas of pacification. We are in constant contact with the President of the International Committee Red Cross, Peter Maurer, right on Aleppo (and here the Red Cross does a great job, it is the only organization with access to the city ​​of Aleppo and assisting the population). There is a consensus, it must be said, recently the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, made an appeal: «Après Kobanî, il faut Sauver Aleppo», and our President, Marco Impagliazzo, met in New York, Ban Ki-moon, who was in favor of this initiative. But here, I would say, there is a blockage. First, this block requires to be forced by a stronger commitment from public opinion. You know better than I do, how our public opinion gets on and off: this summer we cried on Mosul, what is now about these Christians who are in Erbil or in the fields of Kurdistan. This is the first point. We would like it had coagulated a broad consensus to save Aleppo. This was not done forMosul; I think that on Mosul there is a great responsibility, because the tragedy of Mosul was a announced crisis, and it was not done for the plain of Nineveh: it was a foretold crisis. On the contrary, I am very pleased that there has been a mobilization for Kobanî, the small Kurdish town that we all know. We do not want to become a new Aleppo Mosul. Here we need a committed diplomatic action. At this level, I want to emphasize as a possible point of clot, the commitment of Staffan de Mistura - whom you know, UN correspondent for Syrian crisis - which has resumed the appeal of Aleppo and is supporting it, I know from contacts with him and the echoes that we have in the various capitals, very hardly, as an idea of ​​cooling of the situation in Aleppo, «freeze zone» that would save Aleppo by the disaster. Look, we are a few inches from the tragedy; it is enough that a group goes 500 meters beyond its spaces, beyond the suburbs of Aleppo, and you can unleash the tragedy, and Aleppo can become a heap of ruins where nestle fighters. It is not my task dictate the technical-legal procedures to get the result. It's mine task declare the interest of many, underline the block, but reiterate that it is essential to save the city. Someone asked, «but why Aleppo and not other cities?». Well! Aleppo is a symbol: a symbol of culture, a symbol of civilization, a symbol of coexistence, and Aleppo can be the propose for a method to solve the set of a situation, in front of which we have not solutions, rather we have inconsistent policies, that is «pacified areas». This is not to take sovereignty over the center of the city from the Syrians, it comes to achieving an agreement between the belligerents, which unfortunately is still far away, the major belligerents (one of the parties is the ISIS/Dā'ish), but other are minor parts. So, Aleppo to decrease areas of conflict, Aleppo to decrease areas of conflict in Syria. And to give blood to Aleppo, give oxygen to Aleppo, it is a city that is choking; opening humanitarian corridors. In this, I would reiterate, here in front of you, an appeal on behalf of the signatories, to the countries and governments involved, because they operate in the way of salvation of Aleppo, starting from the permanent members of the Security Council, but I believe that Italy, which declared available, can have a large role, Germany, and to influential countries in that area, such as the Republic of Turkey, that preserves the security of the mausoleum of Suleyman Shah, east of the city: even our Turkish friends know what it's like to lose Aleppo. I believe that the role of United Nations is decisive - Marco Impagliazzo has spoken about it a week ago - the possibility to create safe places, «safe haven» under the control of the United Nations. We do not think that no one will benefit from this cooling; a UN operation does not change the sovereignty of the area, nor gives operative advantages to the parties, but if Aleppo dies, it would be the destruction of a mosaic of cultures and religious communities. We do not cry on Eastern Christians if we do nothing for Aleppo. It would be an ethnocide, that is a cultural genocide, as well as a massacre. So, here I would like to say two things, at the end: reiterate the appeal for Aleppo, and today we are also launching this hashtag #saveAleppo, because the network is integral to what we said, that it can mobilize anywhere, we we must return to a conception in which peace is requested by the people: peace is too serious a matter to be closed in the corridors of the military and diplomatics; peace affects us all. We are concerned because we are all interdependent; Rome itself appears constantly in some delirious messages, but I would not talk about this now. You are spreading an incredible widespread violence; what happened today in Jerusalem is an incredible fact that we condemn harshly. But for years now Sant'Egidio says that few can make war and it is time that it mobilizes - let me use this term that is not to be rhetorical - the people of peace. I believe that it is possible this. So this, to reiterate this call and second, I would like to launch a major international conference on the future of Christians in Middle East, with the participation of heads of the Orthodox Catholic and Protestant in the Middle East, and representatives of international diplomacy, that should keep in Cyprus, there behind, between the 5th and 6th March, next year. Thank you."