The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held an emergency meeting Sunday
Moscow’s experience of giving concessions to the Syrian rebels following requests from the US, in the hope of it culminating in a ceasefire has not worked, Russia’s envoy to the UN has told the Security Council adding that Moscow will no longer be following these steps.
Vitaly Churkin said that Russia has pressured Damascus on several occasions to meet the demands of its opponents, in the hope that this would lead to a ceasefire. However, this has not had the desired result and has seen constant violations by some rebel groups despite Washington’s promise to keep them under control.
“The American side de facto signed that it was unable to influence the groups it sponsors and to deliver on the deal as it promised. First of all, to separate those groups from terrorists and mark their positions on the ground accordingly,” he said.
He added that the actions of the US-led coalition, which killed 62 Syrian government soldiers in a miscalculated airstrike near Deir ez-Zor and exposed them to an offensive by the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) damaged relations with Damascus.
He dismissed criticism of the Syrian army, expressed at the Security Council meeting by the US, France and the UK, over the latest offensive in eastern Aleppo.
He said that part of the city hosts an estimated 3,500 fighters, of which 2,000 belong to the Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, which uses the civilian population of those areas as human shields while indiscriminately attacking residential areas controlled by the Syrian government.
“Over 200,000 residents of Aleppo are hostages of the Al-Nusra Front and groups allied with it,” the Russian envoy said.
Churkin said the terrorists have heavy weapons, tanks, including multiple rocket launchers and artillery systems, which they do not hesitate to use. He also added that they had managed to acquire these weapons through negligence or possibly with the direct help of the countries who would support anyone opposing the Syrian regime.
Churkin said the militants are the main reason why attempts to deliver humanitarian aid to Aleppo have failed, contradicting accusations by the US, which blames Russia and Damascus.
Churkin dismissed the statements made by his US counterpart Samantha Power, who said Russia had to prove that it genuinely has intentions of bringing peace to Syria, saying the other parties also have to prove they are willing to take steps towards achieving a ceasefire.
“The ceasefire can only be salvaged now on a collective basis. It’s not us that have to prove something to somebody unilaterally. We have to see proof that there is a genuine desire to separate US-allied rebel groups from the Al-Nusra Front, then destroy the Al-Nusra Front and bring the opposition into a political process. Otherwise our suspicions that this was only meant to shield the Al-Nusra Front would only grow stronger.”
The UN Security Council meeting was convened at the request of the US, the UK and France to discuss the escalation of violence in Syria, after a ceasefire agreement, which was negotiated by Russia and the US had expired. The three countries accused Russia and Syria of causing civilian suffering in Aleppo, but did not mention the role played by armed groups opposing Damascus, which control large portions of the city.
China took a neutral stance and called on the revival of the ceasefire and facilitation of humanitarian aid to Aleppo, without accusing any party for the violence. The Chinese envoy stressed that counter-terrorism effort is an essential part for resolving the Syrian conflict.
The Syrian envoy said Damascus was determined to take the whole of Aleppo under its control and dismissed accusations of indiscriminate attacks against civilians and the use of incendiary weapons, which the US voiced against the Syrian army.
UN’s special envoy for Syria reported to the Council that the conditions in the contested city are deteriorating and that it needs relief as soon as possible.