February 9, 2018 / 7:57 AM / in 8 months

UPDATE 2-France urges halt to air strikes, aid corridors in Syria

(Adds details, context on France’s fruitless push for aid corridors)

PARIS, Feb 9 (Reuters) - French Defence Minister Florence Parly on Friday called for an end to air strikes in Syria and the opening of humanitarian corridors, saying it was unacceptable that civilians were being targeted.

Parly highlighted the fighting in rebel-held areas of Idlib province and eastern Damascus, where waves of Syrian government and Russian strikes have killed dozens of civilians in recent days.

“We are very worried. The air strikes need to end,” Parly said on France Inter radio. “Civilians are the targets, in Idlib and in the east of Damascus. This fighting is absolutely unacceptable,” she added.

The Syrian civil war, now entering its eighth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes, while drawing in regional countries and global powers supporting client factions on the ground.

Parly did not specify who was carrying out the strikes.

Her comments came after the United Nations on Tuesday called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Syria of at least a month. U.N. war crimes experts have also said they are investigating several reports of bombs allegedly containing chlorine gas being used against civilians.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whose military support has helped government forces claw back territory, on Thursday said a ceasefire was unrealistic.

Standing beside Russian President Vladimir Putin last summer, French leader Emmanuel Macron said any failure to open humanitarian corridors in Syria represented a “red line”, as did the use of chemical weapons.

France and the United Nations have repeatedly called in past months for the opening of aid corridors to alleviate the humanitarian crisis. The Paris government has also urged Moscow in private to consider ways to alleviate the crisis, but those efforts have not materialized into results on the ground.

France’s foreign minister is due in Russia before the end of February. (Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Richard Lough and Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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