Russia Under Fire At UN After Deadly Aleppo Bombings
By RFE/RL September 26, 2016
Britain, France, and the United States have lashed out at Russia for its actions in Syria, amid an intensification of the bombing campaign over the northern city of Aleppo.
"What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counterterrorism, it is barbarism," the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told an emergency meeting of the Security Council on September 25.
Power also said the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and its ally Russia were "laying waste to what is left of an iconic Middle Eastern city."
"Instead of peace, Russia and Assad make war," she said. "Instead of getting life-saving aid to Syrians, Russia and Assad are bombing hospitals and first responders."
The U.S. ambassador went on to call on the Security Council to "have the courage to say who is responsible and tell Russia with one voice to stop."
The UN meeting, requested by Britain, France, and the United States, comes after the Syrian regime declared last week a new offensive against eastern Aleppo, where some 275,000 people are living.
At least 231 civilians have been killed in violence in the embattled city and its outskirts since a weeklong cease-fire, brokered by the United States and Russia, fell apart on September 19, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the meeting that Syrian forces were trying to remove terrorists from Aleppo while harming as few citizens as possible -- without saying Russian forces were involved in the aerial bombardments.
Churkin added that there was a humanitarian corridor by which residents could leave, but it was being blocked by rebels.
He also blamed armed opposition groups for sabotaging the truce and accused the Western coalition of failing to separate the moderate factions it backs from "terrorist" groups.
Syria's Ambassador Bashar Jaafari railed against a "filthy propaganda war" waged by the United States and its allies and said Damascus "will not give up a single inch of its territory."
Churkin said bringing peace to Syria was "almost an impossible task now," but he made clear that reviving the cease-fire was still a goal that Moscow could pursue if it was part of an "collective" effort on all sides.
"Does Russia think it can install confidence and trust with its partners by negotiating a cessation of hostilities with one hand and supporting the regime, which is bombing Aleppo, with the other hand?" asked France's UN Ambassador Francois Delattre.
The British envoy, Matthew Rycroft, said Russia's actions have "prolonged the conflict, prolonged the suffering."
"It is difficult to deny that Russia is partnering with the Syrian regime to carry out war crimes," Rycroft added.
UN special envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura told the meeting that the past week has been "one of the worst ones in Syria during the near six years of this devastating conflict."
De Mistura said nearly 2 million people in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, are without running water following the escalation in fighting.
He urged the Security Council to press for a cessation of hostilities, weekly 48-hour pauses in fighting to deliver aid, and medical evacuations for several urgent cases in eastern Aleppo.
On the sidelines of the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged an end to the offensive in Aleppo, saying the bombs "are not busting bunkers, they are demolishing ordinary people looking for any last refuge of safety."
"International law is clear, he said, the systematic use of indiscriminate weapons in densely populated areas is a war crime."
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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