2016-10-19 18:33:00

Caritas warns of heavy civilian casualties in Mosul conflict

(Vatican Radio) The head of the Catholic aid and development agency, Caritas Internationalis, has warned the conflict in the Iraqi city of Mosul will cause heavy civilian casualties and will not be “a clean war” to rid the city of so-called Islamic State militants.

The Secretary General of the global Caritas confederation, Michel Roy also accused world leaders of “double standards” and of pursuing national interests in Syria and Iraq, rather than considering the interests of the civilian populations of those two countries.

Listen to Michel Roy’s interview with Philippa Hitchen: 

Voicing his fears to Vatican Radio, Roy warned there are 1.250.000 civilians in Mosul, and so the “war which is starting now on the city” means that “there will be lots and lots of civilian people killed in Mosul”. His words came as thousands of people fled from the city on Wednesday while Iraqi troops and tanks moved in to try and recapture it from Islamic State control.

Comparing the claims of a “clean war” in Mosul with the conflict in the Syrian city of Aleppo, Roy said “we shouldn’t have double standards in what is happening there”. He said “people are dying, people are suffering in Aleppo, and there are war crimes in Aleppo, and tomorrow there will be already now people dying and people suffering in Mosul and also war crimes committed by the other side, and [….] we’ve become kind of indifferent on this”.

United Nations agencies are also gearing up for what they fear may be a huge humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict.

The Caritas Secretary General urged what he called “the main powers, the USA, the European Union, Russia” to “stop fighting, stop bombing”, adding that “this is not the way forward”. Roy  acknowledged that Islamic State or Da’esh is “a real big terrorist issue”, even if, he said “I am sure at some time they will also want to sit and talk”.

But he insisted that “What the U.S. wants in the Middle East, what Russia wants in the Middle East is not for the good of the Middle Eastern people, it’s for their own interests and that has to stop”. Echoing the words of Pope Francis, Roy urged world leaders to “look at things in a different way” and work to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table for the good of all people in the region.

The Caritas leader cited the example of the way the Lebanese civil war ended in 1995 as “an example to follow for Syria”. He said the combatants must “come and sit at the table and decide about their future together”. While the international community has to facilitate this, he stressed they “don't have to decide for the people and, especially in Syria, if they decide for the people, that [war] will never end.

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