Syria ceasefire resolutions blocked at UN

Published October 9th, 2016 - 09:31 GMT
A Syrian civil defence volunteer, known as the White Helmets, stands on the rubble of destroyed buildings during a rescue operation following a government forces air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Bustan al-Basha in Aleppo. (AFP/Thaer Mohammed)
A Syrian civil defence volunteer, known as the White Helmets, stands on the rubble of destroyed buildings during a rescue operation following a government forces air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Bustan al-Basha in Aleppo. (AFP/Thaer Mohammed)

Two resolutions urging an immediate ceasefire in Syria failed to pass at the UN Security Council on Saturday further deepening the division between Russia and Western countries over the Syrian conflict.

Russia vetoed a resolution, drafted by France and Spain, which demanded the grounding of military aircraft in Aleppo, after which a rival resolution presented by Russia, which called for a ceasefire with no mention of an end to airstrikes, also failed to gather enough votes to pass.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said before the vote that his country's resolution was meant to put an end to violence in the "martyred city" of Aleppo, which has been under intense bombardment by the Syrian government and its ally Russia.

Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the UN, said none of the five permanent members of the council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - had ever accepted a resolution aiming to limit its actions and called the vote on the rival resolutions a waste of time.

"Today, we are participating in one of the strangest spectacles in the history of the UN Security Council: we have to vote on two draft resolutions at the council, while we are all aware that neither will be adopted," Churkin said.

The French-Spanish text, which called for an end to hostilities, unhindered humanitarian access and an end to "all aerial bombardments of and military flights over Aleppo" received 11 votes in favour, two votes against from Venezuela and veto-wielding Russia, and two abstentions.

The Russian draft got four votes in favour, nine votes against, including from veto powers Britain, France and the US, and two abstentions. Security Council resolutions need at least nine votes in favour and no veto to pass.

Besides a ceasefire, the Russian text called for the separation of moderate opposition groups from the UN-designated "terrorist" group al-Nusra Front and demanded that no party to the Syrian conflict support any "terrorist" group, including Daesh. 

Matthew Rycroft, British ambassador to the UN, called the Russian draft a "sham" and a "cynical attempt" to divert attention from vetoing the French-Spanish text, noting that it was the fifth time Russia had used its veto on Syria since the conflict began in 2011.

"A lonely veto, and then just four votes in favour of your text - a double humiliation," Rycroft said.

"Thanks to your actions today, Syrians will continue to lose their lives in Aleppo and beyond to Russian and Syrian bombing. Please stop now."

David Pressman, a representative of the US to UN, said it was "grotesque" that Russia was not only allowing the killings of Syrian civilians to continue, but was also participating in carrying it out.

"Through the campaign it describes as counter-terrorism, Russia has become one of the chief purveyors of terror in Aleppo, using tactics more commonly associated with thugs than governments," he said.

Western diplomats, including ambassadors from Britain, France and the US, walked out of the Security Council chamber in protest at the Syrian regime when Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja'afari took the floor to speak.

Meanwhile, Syrian government forces on Saturday regained several villages from rebels in Hama, reversing the opposition's recent advances in the key central province, a monitoring group reported.

The regime's latest gains followed a massive counter-attack including artillery shelling and airstrikes against rebels in the north-eastern parts of Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added.

No casualties were reported.

The advance is the first of its kind by the regime in the area since the opposition seized large chunks there in late August, the Britain-based watchdog said.


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