In Multipolarity, Oct 8, 2016  (additional reporting further below)

Russia has vetoed a French-drafted UN Security Council resolution on Syria, while the Russian draft resolution failed to receive a minimum number of votes.

War-ravaged Aleppo, Syria (Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)

War-ravaged Aleppo, Syria (Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)

In his statement, the Russian envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said that all of the members of the UNSC understood from the beginning that both draft resolutions would not go through. “Today we are participating in one of the most bizarre scenes in the history of the UN Security Council. We will vote on the two draft Council resolutions, and we are all well aware that neither of them will be accepted,” Churkin said.

The official urged all sides to restart the Syria peace process, which he said had been “jeopardized” by the radical groups.

The French proposal implied “upgraded” coordination of monitoring of the situation in Syria and reactivating the cessation of hostilities in Aleppo. One of the key points of the proposal was a halt to Syrian and Russian bombardment of East Aleppo.

Moscow and Damascus repeatedly stress they are targeting terrorist hideouts there which have been jeopardizing the cessation of hostilities.

The French proposal also included a call for all sides to prevent any material and financial resources reaching individuals or groups “associated with al-Qaeda and IS [Islamic State]”. In addition, the French urged greater access for humanitarian aid deliveries across Syria.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the French-sponsored resolution “distorted” the real situation in Syria after the U.S. refused to stick to the agreement on settling the crisis. The prohibition of flights over Aleppo “provides cover to terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra” and those militants who allied with them, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.

Moscow is nevertheless ready to work together on fulfilling the agreements reached earlier on resolving the deadlock in Syria, the Foreign Ministry added.

Russia, for its part, submitted to the UNSC a counter-resolution on Syria. According to the document, Moscow called for an immediate halt to the violence in war-ravaged Aleppo but not for a halt to anti-terrorist strikes in the city. Monitoring should be then evaluated by the International Syrian Support Group (ISSG), the document said.

One of the key elements of the proposal was an urgent need for a separation of moderate rebels from terrorist groups like Al-Nusra in Aleppo, as agreed between Moscow and Washington in Geneva on September 9.

Commenting on the Russian resolution at the UNSC, the U.S. representative stated that Moscow can’t justify its strikes in Aleppo with “a few hundred” al-Nusra terrorists there. However, according to the latest estimations by the UN, between six and eight thousand militants are currently holding the eastern part of Aleppo, with nearly half of those estimated to belong or act together with the al-Nusra terrorists.

The Russian draft also strongly backed calls by UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura to allow safe exit for Nusra terrorists in order to bring relief to Aleppo. On Thursday, de Mistura said he is willing to personally escort them out. “If you [Al-Nusra] did decide to leave, in dignity with your weapons, to Idlib or anywhere you wanted to go, I personally am ready, physically ready, to accompany you,” he said.

De Mistura, warned that East Aleppo might be destroyed within two months if the military action in the city continues.

Russia and the Syrian government have come under intense criticism from the U.S. in recent days over the strikes in Aleppo. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the Russian and Syrian governments’ actions in Syria “beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes.” He alleged that Moscow and Damascus have been “hitting hospitals, medical facilities,” in the war-ravaged country.

Russia and Syria have denied any wrongdoing, with Moscow insisting that any peace plan for Syria and Aleppo in particular will not bear fruit until the U.S.-backed rebels clearly distance themselves from Al-Nusra. On Friday, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said that the U.S. had consistently failed to deliver on its promises to do so. “It has led to problems in identifying specific violators of the ceasefire,” Antonov said.

During the UNSC session, Churkin “regretted” that New Zealand’s push for a document combining Russian and French proposals has not been given any consideration in the Council.

“We know that New Zealand tried to work out a draft resolution that would [be] in the middle of the two approaches presented today. We regret that some influential members of the Council did not allow to set your project going,” he said.

Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, told RT that the failure of the UN Security Council members to agree on a resolution is the lesser evil, compared to actual fighting between the great powers. “It is an opportunity to share ideas and discuss things that otherwise could come to arms and, certainly, in the past week we saw a real of the great powers shooting at each other,” she said.

She argued that, in general, the UN Security Council has a poor track record in stopping warfare and its inability to find a common solution is nothing out of the ordinary. “If you look at the track record of the UN in general, and specifically, the Security Council, it is a kind of a system that really has very few successes in terms of really helping people, and saving lives and preventing wars.”

While the conversation about the future of war-ravaged Syria needs to be continued, the lack of a unified approach on the issue is unavoidable as the interests of various great powers collide there, Kwiatkowski said. “We have a great confusion in terms of great powers interests in Syria, the U.S., in particular, says one thing and does another.”

Syrian government, allies advance as Russia vetoes UN demand

By John Davison, Reuters, Sunday, Oct 9, 2016

Sun sets over Aleppo, Syria on Oct 5, 2016 (Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)

Sun sets over Aleppo, Syria on Oct 5, 2016 (Abdalrhman Ismail, Reuters)

BEIRUT – Russia vetoed a French-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution on Saturday that would have demanded an immediate end to air strikes and military flights over Syria’s Aleppo city and called for a truce and humanitarian aid access throughout Syria.

Meanwhile, a rival Russian-drafted resolution that aimed to revive a failed Sept. 9 U.S. and Russia ceasefire deal on Syria did not garner the minimum nine votes.

Fighting continued in the almost six-year conflict with Syrian government forces recapturing territory from insurgents in several western areas. President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russian air power and Iranian, Lebanese and Iraqi fighters on the ground, hold the upper hand around the key battleground of Aleppo, whose opposition-held eastern sector has been encircled for all but a short period since July.

The government side’s bombardment of Aleppo since a ceasefire brokered by Washington and Moscow in September collapsed after a week has drawn condemnation from the United Nations and countries supporting the Syrian opposition.

France, which opposes Assad, demanded in its draft resolution an end to air strikes and military flights over Aleppo city. Russia has backed Assad with a year-long air campaign against the rebels. French President Francois Hollande on Saturday had urged United Nations Security Council members not to use their veto against a resolution that calls for an end to bombardments of Aleppo.

Russia’s draft, which does not include that demand, urges Moscow and Washington to revive the ceasefire deal.

Syrian opposition negotiator Asaad al-Zoubi said on his Twitter account that its High Negotiations Committee would not accept any new ceasefire deal without guaranteed monitoring of it by European and Arab countries.

Rebels also suffered setbacks further northeast near the Turkish border on Saturday, in fighting against Islamic State militants, British-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Syrian government forces and their allies, backed by air raids, took over an area on Aleppo’s northern outskirts on Saturday, state media and the Observatory said. The advance in the Awaija area strengthened their hold on areas surrounding rebel-held east Aleppo, the Observatory said.

Rebel official Zakaria Malahifji of the Aleppo-based Fastaqim faction denied there had been a government advance there. But he did confirm government advances further south in Hama province, reported by pro-Damascus media and the Observatory.

The Syrian army and its allies recaptured several towns and villages from rebels in Hama’s northern countryside, reversing recent insurgent gains in the area. Rebels had seized towns and villages north of Hama city after launching an offensive at the end of August in rare advances while insurgent factions were pressed elsewhere.

The government’s Hama advances were their first in the area since then, the Observatory said. It said the government side had taken advantage of recent infighting between two Islamist insurgent groups in the countryside of Idlib, north of Hama’s provincial boundary.

In a separate government advance against insurgents near Damascus, the Syrian army and allied forces seized a large portion of the town of al-Hameh to the northwest of the Syrian capital, the Observatory said.

Islamic State advances

Russia’s air power has been crucial for strengthening Assad’s position in the past year, pounding rebels including foreign-backed factions. Washington accuses Moscow and Damascus of war crimes for intentionally targeting civilians, aid deliveries and hospitals which have been hit particularly around Aleppo in recent weeks. Moscow and Damascus say they are targeting terrorist groups.

The ceasefire deal brokered by Washington and Moscow in September was meant to pave the way for joint U.S.-Russian targeting of extremists including al Qaeda and Islamic State. All sides in the multi-sided Syria conflict, now in its sixth year, are fighting a number of separate battles against IS.

Members of the jihadist group recaptured several villages from foreign-backed rebels in their counter attack near the Turkish border, the Observatory said. The rebels, whom Turkey has supported with tanks and air strikes, had been pushing toward the IS stronghold of Dabiq, a village of symbolic importance to the militants [population of several thousand, app 40 km northeast of Aleppo and 10 km from Turkish border]. The stiff resistance the insurgents have encountered in recent days shows the challenge they face in capturing Dabiq and flushing the jihadist group out of more areas it controls in northern Syria.

Further readings:

Russian draft resolution on Syria truce fails to get minimum votes, Reuters, Oct 9, 2016

Syria resolution vetoed by Russia at Security Council was ‘initiated by those obsessed with regime change’, Oct 9, 2016

No sign US is seriously battling Al-Nusra; calls not to fly over Aleppo suspicious – Lavrov ,, Oct 9, 2016


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