Security Council Fails to Adopt Two Draft Resolutions on Syria, Despite Appeals for Action Preventing Impending Humanitarian Catastrophe in Aleppo

SC/12545
8 October 2016
7785th Meeting (PM)

Security Council Fails to Adopt Two Draft Resolutions on Syria, Despite Appeals for Action Preventing Impending Humanitarian Catastrophe in Aleppo

Two draft texts — one from France and Spain, and the other from the Russian Federation — addressing the conflict in Syria failed to be adopted by the Security Council today amid heated debate on content and urgent calls for humanitarian intervention for the besieged city of Aleppo.

The French and Spanish text that would have had the Council demand an immediate halt to all aerial bombardments and military flights over the city of Aleppo received 11 affirmative votes, two abstentions (Angola and China), and two negative votes (Russian Federation and Venezuela).

The text would also have urged the immediate implementation of a cessation of hostilities as well as immediate, safe and unhindered humanitarian access throughout the country, and demanded that parties to the conflict — in particular the Syrian authorities — fully implement all previous Council resolutions.

The Russian Federation’s text, by which the Council would have urged an immediate cessation of hostilities, particularly in Aleppo, received a vote of 4 in favour (China, Egypt, Russian Federation, Venezuela) to 9 against (France, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States), with 2 abstentions (Angola and Uruguay).

That draft resolution would have demanded that all parties prevent material and financial support from reaching groups associated with Al-Qaida, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) or Jabhat al-Nusrah.

Introducing the first text, Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister for Foreign Affairs of France, said that if nothing was done, Aleppo would go down in history as a city in ruins whose inhabitants had been abandoned to their executioners.  Comparing Aleppo to Guernica, Sarajevo and Grozny, he said adoption of the text would give hope to Syrians.  Rejection, on the other hand, would mean more deaths, more refugees and more displaced persons.

Spain’s representative warned that the worst situation in the conflict could still be ahead.  He added that it was intolerable that the Syrian Government continued to block the delivery of humanitarian assistance through deliberate tactics, including the removal of medical assistance.  He also noted how the draft text called for the investigation into the recent bombing of a United Nations aid convoy.

The representative of the Russian Federation, Council President for the month of October, presented his country’s draft resolution, stating that he knew that it would not get the required number of votes for adoption.  However, he explained, that text was an attempt to maintain a multilateral approach to the issue.  He added that very complicated work was continuing and that hopefully the situation in Syria would return to normal.

As Syria’s representative took the floor, the heads of several delegations exited the Security Council chamber, causing him to decry those countries’ diplomacy as one of chaos and use of force and not one of dialogue.  He also voiced his regret that the Council had failed to adopt the Russian Federation’s draft resolution, saying that failure reaffirmed a lack of political will in combating terrorism and in reaching an intra-Syrian solution to the crisis.  He added that he had not reflected on the Franco-Spanish draft as it was clear it had its own objectives.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Malaysia, United States, New Zealand, Ukraine, Japan, Venezuela, Egypt, China, Uruguay and Angola.

The meeting began at 2:38 p.m. and ended at 4:51 p.m.

Statements

JEAN-MARC AYRAULT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of France, speaking before the vote on draft resolution S/2016/846, said remarks to the Security Council the day before by Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, were like a cry of alarm.  If nothing was done, Aleppo would go down in history as a city in ruins whose inhabitants had been abandoned to their executioners.  France had asked for an immediate ceasefire, but the Syrian regime’s goal was the capitulation of Aleppo.  What was happening in Aleppo was the horrendous repetition of what had happened in Guernica, Sarajevo and Grozny, and if the international community did not wake up, it would share responsibility for all those tragedies.  The Security Council must demand immediate action in order to put an end to the bombings by the Syrian regime and its allies, as well as enable access for humanitarian aid.

It had been with an outstretched hand in recent days and hours that he had strove for consensus, he continued.  The only desire had been a return to peace in Syria and promoting an end to the tragedy.  The overwhelming majority of Security Council members understood and approved that approach.  Adoption of the text would give the people of Aleppo and Syria new hope of emerging from a spiral of violence, along with new political dynamism based on the urgent resumption of negotiations leading to transition.  Rejection would mean more dead, more refugees and more displaced persons.  Given the stakes, blocking the text would give Bashar al-Assad the possibility of more killing as well as a senseless gift to terrorists.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said that his promotion of the draft resolution was a response to a desperate situation after the world had witnessed over the past five years indiscriminate attacks against civilians.  The Council was meeting because the worst episode in the conflict could still be ahead.  The international community could not close its eyes to the situation, and the draft resolution sought to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and demanded an end to the aerial bombing and the saving of a 1,000 year old town. 

It was intolerable that the Syrian Government continued to block aid with deliberate tactics such as the removal of medical assistance, he stated.  The draft text also called for an investigation into the bombing of the aid convoy and bringing the perpetrators to justice.  France and Spain had done everything they could to gain the support of the Council’s 15 nations and incorporate various viewpoints.  The Council was close to consensus and he voiced hope that its members would allow for the adoption of the resolution.  There was still time to take the right decision, he said.

VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation), Security Council President for October, spoke in his national capacity, stating that the backstory to the draft resolution was well known.  After destroying Libya, the troika of permanent Western members of the Security Council had turned its sights on Syria.  Furthermore, the French delegation had not put forward a single constructive initiative.  In its current proposed draft, the concept of a ban on all military flights had not been fleshed out.  He asked whether such a ban would include intelligence flights or flights over the western part of the city, which was under Government control.  He also pointed out that never before had a permanent member of the Security Council been asked to vote in favour of a resolution that addressed its conduct and policy without its prior consent.  He went on to note gaps in the French proposal, such as a duplication of monitoring efforts that was an attempt to violate existing architecture for cooperation.  He said he understood that the Russian Federation draft, also before the Council, would fail to get the required number of votes, adding that indeed military activity in eastern Aleppo was decreasing and that it was hoped that trend would continue.

Following a vote of 11 in favour to 2 against (Russian Federation, Venezuela), with 2 abstentions (Angola, China), the Council did not adopt the draft resolution.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom), speaking after the vote, said that today the Council had seen the fifth veto in five years from the Russian Federation.  It was a veto that had, once again, denigrated the credibility and respect of the Council in the eyes of the world.  The current tactics being used in Aleppo under the guise of combating terrorism were turning the situation into a catastrophe.  The Russian Federation’s commitment was hollow and a sham.  Instead of investing in peace and diplomacy, it had cooperated with the Syrian regime, and it was Syrian civilians who bore the brunt of that complicity.  The text that was vetoed had not been unreasonable.  It had called for steps that would have saved lives.  There was no justification for aerial bombings.  Furthermore, it was despicable that the violence was so extreme that the safety of humanitarian convoys could not be assured.  Every day, the international community saw that there was no military resolution to the conflict.  Council unity was needed to end the conflict, and that unity would only come when the Russian Federation ended its policy and stopped its aerial bombardment.  However, thanks to that country’s actions today, Syrians would continue to lose their lives in Aleppo and beyond.  Please stop now, he urged.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia), noting the Council’s latest attempt to effectively address a deteriorating situation through the draft resolution, said that a halt to the aerial bombing was key in ending the death and destruction.  The cessation of aerial bombardment would have been a welcomed step to stop the despicable suffering of those in Eastern Aleppo.  He had voted in favour of the Franco-Spanish text and was disappointed that it had been vetoed, he said, adding that he was fearful of the consequences of the Council’s actions and the disunity on display.  Furthermore, the Council could not continue such paralysis, he warned.  Today’s initiative did not reflect that body’s best efforts, he said, adding that the Council must coalesce around a middle ground to find a way around the current stalemate.  “We must not allow eastern Aleppo to end tragically,” he stated.

DAVID PRESSMAN (United States) said the text that had been vetoed had only one goal — to stop the bombing of Aleppo.  The Secretary-General had called the situation in that city worse than a slaughterhouse.  Air strikes by the Russian Federation and the Syrian regime aimed to further the regime in Damascus.  It was time for the Council to act, yet it had failed to do so because the President of the Council was intent on not only letting the killing continue, but participating in its execution.  Such a situation was “grotesque”, he said, adding that the Russian Federation was using counter-terrorism as a pretext to help the Assad regime retake Aleppo by brutal force, snuff out opposition groups and cow into submission civilians who yearned for a different Government.  In addition, that country could not use the presence of a couple of hundred members of Al-Nusrah to justify a bombing campaign that left hundreds of thousands of people besieged.  Some might criticize the draft resolution before the Council as lacking balance, but there was no balance in what was happening in Aleppo, scene of the deadliest aerial bombing campaign since 2011.  The Russian Federation and the Syrian regime were causing bloody chaos.  Today’s effort had been aimed at stopping violence.  It was a shame that it had not been possible to do so, he said, adding that it was time for the Russian Federation to stop starving and killing Aleppo’s children.

GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said it was unacceptable that the Russian Federation and Syria were using counter-terrorism to justify a large-scale bombing campaign in which civilians were paying the highest price.  He said he had hoped that the Council could come together on a text that would contribute to constructive action on the ground, but its failure to do so had undermined its credibility.  It was vital to use all multilateral channels to move the parties away from killing and back to the negotiating table while allowing humanitarian assistance to reach the Syrian people.  He would be talking with other Council members on the way forward.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation), noting that he knew that New Zealand had been working on a separate text, said he regretted that some influential Council members had not allowed a draft to go forward.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said he had voted in favour of the draft resolution and was dismayed, but not surprised, that efforts had been derailed by the Russian Federation.  Had the text been adopted, it would have been a step toward exercising preventative diplomacy.  History would hold accountable those who did not allow the Council to discharge its duties.  If the current dynamics in the Syrian conflict continued, the international community would face the risk of a protracted sectarian conflict lasting for many years ahead and giving more space for extremists to exploit the situation.  Citing the words of Special Envoy Staffan De Mistura, he stressed that the world did not want to live through another Srebrenica and Rwanda, nor did it want to live through another Grozny.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that the situation in Syria was devastating and it was regrettable that the Security Council could not overcome its differences.  The indiscriminate attacks that violated international law must come to an end.  However, he underscored that the failure of the resolution should not be an excuse for the crisis in Aleppo.  The international community must take immediate measures to address the humanitarian situation and the Council had a responsibility to take concrete actions that would bring change on the ground.  The Syrian people had suffered for too long, he said.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said the Franco-Spanish draft did not contribute to a balanced approach to the humanitarian problem, adding that the aim of humanitarian assistance had been used by some States represented on the Security Council for political purposes.  Real responsibility for the tragedy rested with terrorist groups enjoying foreign support and holding 275,000 people as human shields.  Emphasizing that combating terrorism was a shared objective of the international community, he said there was an urgent need to end outside support to armed groups which had become terrorist groups and it was vital to implement the 9 September cessation of hostilities agreement.  It was paradoxical that the text demanded that Syria ban flights over Aleppo, not exercise sovereignty over its territory.  The Council had no right to weaken the sovereignty of a Member State or to decide the legitimacy of a Government.  He also voiced his rejection of any manipulation of the humanitarian drama in Syria through external support and foreign actors.

Following a vote of 4 in favour (China, Egypt, Russian Federation, Venezuela) to 9 against (France, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States), with 2 abstentions (Angola, Uruguay), the Council did not adopt a second draft resolution sponsored by the Russian Federation.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), speaking after the vote, said he was at a loss for words.  A message of failure was being sent to the Syrian people, and the Council, created to peacefully end disputes, had become a media platform.  In place of serious political consultations to stop the bloodletting in Syria, delegations were repeating traditional positions in a dialogue of the deaf.  It was known that both draft texts would fail.  Through his vote, he said, he was only expressing his position that he could no longer tolerate the destiny of Arab people being tampered with.  He added, however, that there remained a window of opportunity and that both draft texts covered key points, which should serve as foundations to build upon in the coming days.  He also underscored that he was fully prepared to work within the framework of the International Syria Support Group and the Security Council to carry the process forward and called on others to endeavour to do so as well.

Mr. RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said the second draft text was a cynical attempt to divert attention from the Russian Federation’s veto of the first text.  It had failed because it did not call for an immediate end to the bombing of Aleppo.

 

Mr. PRESSMAN (United States) called the text a deceptive attempt to get the Security Council to ratify what the Russian Federation and the Syrian regime were doing in Aleppo.  The Russian Federation wanted more talk while taking the city by brutal force.  What was needed, he said, was less talk and more action on that country’s part to stop the slaughter.

Mr. RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said that the outcome of the vote demonstrated the Council’s inability to achieve consensus on how to resolve the situation in Syria.  The lack of unity, however, was due to the fact that some members were involved in the conflict.  The world was paying the price for a disastrous policy in the Middle East.  “We must raise our voices to defend the principles of the United Nations,” including the respect for sovereignty and the non-interference of peoples, he said.  No one in the Security Council could decide whether the Syrian Government was legitimate or not.  Respect for United Nations principles was the only way to find a political solution, not only in Syria, but in Yemen, the State of Palestine and so many countries.  The veto did serve to give balance in situations that were out of balance, he pointed out, adding that in some instances, double standards were at play.  The international community must find a political solution to the tragedy and put an end to interventionism in Syria.

Mr. YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said that he had voted against the resolution proposed by the Russian Federation because he could not agree with tactics that aimed to divert attention from a solid and meaningful draft resolution that could have helped stop the Aleppo massacre.  Moreover, the document hardly mentioned the devastating developments in Aleppo, which was cynical, given the gravity of the situation. Lastly, he condemned the attempt to put to a vote a draft resolution that had never been discussed in the Council.

LIU JIEYI (China) said the international community should keep its focus on achieving a political solution through dialogue involving all parties in Syria in order to end the conflict as soon as possible.  Action on the part of the Security Council should help improve the situation, help push for a cessation of hostilities, support United Nations humanitarian efforts and pursue strong measures to combat terrorist groups.  The draft text from France and Spain contained several important elements, but some of its contents did not reflect full respect for Syria’s sovereignty and independence, nor did it incorporate constructive views from some Council members.  On the other hand, the Russian Federation’s draft text did reflect respect for Syria’s sovereignty.  Noting that he had voted for the latter text, he voiced regret it had not been adopted.  He also added that he hoped that the Council would make the safety of the Syrian people its first priority, stay united, build consensus, push for a political solution, work jointly to prevent the spread of terrorism and play a constructive role in maintaining peace and stability in Syria and the region.

Mr. VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said he had voted against the draft because of its partial and misleading nature, the Russian Federation’s role in the conflict and the lack of scope of negotiation on the text.  He also stressed that his country had been working on some ideas to bring the Council together, but it had been his delegation’s own decision alone not to carry efforts forward.  However, he noted, he would work further on the issue in the coming days.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay), describing the Council’s pain over Syria and places where civilian populations had been subjected to the brutality of war, called for a cessation to the hostilities and an end to the carnage.  He also said he had abstained from the Russian Federation’s draft resolution for reasons of procedure and substance.  That text had been distributed the day before the current meeting at 5 p.m. and no negotiation had been possible.  Moreover, it did not include something vital: to put an end to the bombing in Aleppo.  As such, he stated he would work to relaunch a process that would contribute to ending the conflict.

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that the Security Council had been confronted with a peculiar situation: to cast votes on two draft resolutions addressing the same issue.  The Council must set an example by putting aside strategic interests and, instead, start mobilizing political will.  Council members had voted on drafts that contained constructive proposals.  However, he noted that he had abstained on both texts because they did not address the fundamental issue of reviving the process toward the cessation of hostilities.  As well, while the Russian Federation’s draft contained some positive elements, he said he did not want to be dragged into the acrimony of certain Council members.  He also voiced deep regret regarding the suspension of negotiations between the two co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group.  Lines of dialogue must remain open in the search of peace and easing the plight of the Syrian civilians who bore the heaviest burden in the conflict.

Mr. BESSHO (Japan) called for an immediate halt to aerial bombardment in Aleppo and to acts that violated international humanitarian law, adding that he could not support the Russian Federation’s proposal.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation), speaking in his national capacity, said his counterparts from the United States and United Kingdom had stuck to their usual rhetoric.  He asked why the United Kingdom had not stopped supporting ruffians around the world or had not stopped interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.  To his counterpart from the United States, he recalled that the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Secretary of State of the United States had reached an agreement, but that the United States had been unable to separate the moderate opposition from terrorist groups.  He also referred to the statements of his counterparts from Uruguay and Angola, saying that the Russian draft text was an attempt to maintain a multilateral approach.  Very complicated work was continuing, he stressed, but expressed hope that the situation in Syria would go back to normal.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), condemning some Permanent Representatives who had left the chamber before his statement, called those countries’ diplomacy one of chaos and use of force, and not one of dialogue.  At a time when the world was going through major challenges due to the erroneous policies of some States, colonial powers sought to implement their own interventionist policies that contravened with the principles of the United Nations Charter.  He expressed regret that the Security Council had failed to adopt the Russian Federation draft resolution.  Blocking that text reaffirmed the lack of political will in combating terrorism and reaching an intra-Syrian solution to the crisis.  Meanwhile, he said he had not reflected on the Franco-Spanish draft as it was clear it had its own objectives.  Fuelling the crisis would be a golden opportunity for France to revive its colonial power.

The carnage in Syria had been caused by mercenary foreign terrorists born in Europe, he went on to say.  Elements of the Franco-Spanish draft proved France had ill intentions against his country; successive French Governments had sought to undermine the Syrian State.  Whenever the Syrian army gained ground against terrorist groups, members of the Council sought to rescue them from their inevitable defeat.  He also said he would have hoped that, instead of tabling a resolution that would impose a no-fly zone, they would have imposed a moratorium on the support that foreign Governments provided to terrorist groups in his country. 

The United States, United Kingdom and France repeatedly sponsored draft resolutions with the purpose to deceive the public into thinking that they were attempting to resolve the conflict, he continued.  They disregarded the fact that their policies had put thousands of civilians in jeopardy by allowing terrorists to use them as human shields.  All of the efforts by the Council had not stopped such foreign support for terrorists.  It was also self-evident that the support programmes of the United States and some Arab countries continued to reach the hands of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Nusrah.

His country would continue to cooperate with the United Nations to implement the monthly response plans, he stated.  The lack of full implementation was due to the fact that groups had continued to block humanitarian access and had targeted aid convoys.  With respect to the convoy attack on 19 September, an investigation had been initiated and results would be provided once that investigation was concluded.  The blood spilled in his country was the blood of the Syrian people.  They were the victims of the terrorist war, he stated, adding that it was the “pinnacle of hypocrisy” that the sponsors of terrorism shed crocodile tears.  Meanwhile, his Government would continue to fight terrorists while pursuing a parallel political track.

Mr. VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) stated that little of what the representative of the Syrian regime had said could be relied upon to be accurate.  The record was clear, he stressed, adding that responsibility for obstructing United Nations humanitarian convoys lied very much with the Syrian regime.

Mr. JA’AFARI (Syria), taking the floor a second time, said he was in constant contact with the delegation from New Zealand to try to explain the crisis in his country.  However, he had not expected his colleague from New Zealand to make a mistake and call him the representative of a regime.  Another mistake was that it was clear that representative and other colleagues had not read what the Syrian Government had sent to them, such as a compilation of 500 letters about terrorism sponsored by countries known to all, as well as 60 letters on the use of chemical weapons by terrorist groups.  He urged his colleagues to read those letters in order to get a clear picture of the situation in Syria.

For information media. Not an official record.