WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement Thursday as the evacuation of civilians from Eastern Aleppo, Syria was underway:
“I welcome the news that some civilians have been evacuated from eastern Aleppo. This evacuation operation is complex and will take time – it is absolutely critical that the ceasefire remains in place and humanitarian access continue to allow for safe and secure evacuation operations. I implore the international community to maintain pressure on Assad, Russia, and Iran so that they comply with the terms of the ceasefire in order to save lives and protect civilians.
“Whether civilians remain or evacuate, they deserve dignity and they deserve protection from grievous harm.
“The world is watching the conduct of Bashar al-Assad, Russia, and Iran. I am highly disturbed by reports that Iran-backed militias fired on evacuation vehicles – these atrocities must be prevented and when they cannot, the international community must unify in our condemnation and in our effort to hold the perpetrators accountable.
“I whole-heartedly reject Assad’s assertions today that the evacuation is a triumphal event. No one is fooled: Assad and his backers are guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and have inflicted a gross campaign of torture, starvation, and violence on the people of Syria. He has no legitimacy to lead Syria.”