Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s response to a media question about the Aleppo local council
Question: The media often cite the so-called local council in eastern Aleppo, which has announced that it will not allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to eastern Aleppo via Castello Road or western Aleppo, which is controlled by the Syrian Government. The evacuation of the ill and wounded from the eastern part of the city has been disrupted. What is this council? Who elected it or approved its mandate?
Maria Zakharova: According to the available information, there are two local governments in Aleppo. One is the Provincial Council headed by Mohammad Fadilah and headquartered in Gaziantep, Turkey. The other is the City Council headed by Brita Haji Hasan. On October 19, the latter, in the capacity of the “mayor of Aleppo,” together with Syria’s White Helmets leader Raed Saleh were received with pomp by French President Francois Hollande and Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. At present, the City Council leadership is headquartered in the town of Atarib about 20 kilometres southwest of Aleppo.
Both council were reportedly elected in 2013 and were initially financed by Qatar. But now their main sponsors are the United States, Great Britain, France, the United Arab Emirates and Scandinavian countries.
The intransigent position of these councils prevented UN humanitarian deliveries to eastern Aleppo via Castello Road in late August 2016. They have also prevented the recent medical evacuation from eastern Aleppo, when the opposition doctors demanded medicines for the militants in return for safe passage of patients from the city.
The illegal armed groups have authorised these councils to oversee the operation of vital services in eastern Aleppo, including water and electricity supply, schools and bakeries. The councils are using these delicate humanitarian instruments to wring loyalty from the local population. However, the councils do not control the local police, who are directly financed by external sponsors, or the Sharia court.
Another force that has been trying to make a stand in Aleppo is the so-called Provisional Government led by Jawad Abu Hatab, which is closely connected to the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces. The Provisional Government and the councils maintain contact via the Assistance Coordination Unit, which is funded lavishly by foreign donors.
It is obvious that all these self-proclaimed authorities do not represent the people of eastern Aleppo, who have become hostage to the militants. Worse still, these so-called leaders, who allegedly act on behalf of the people but actually only do what their sponsors tell them, are playing into the hands of terrorists and the most radical illegal armed groups, which is causing continued bloodshed and increasing the suffering of the people.