Security Council Fails to Adopt Draft Resolution to End Attacks on Aleppo as Two Permanent Members Cast Veto

SC/12609
5 December 2016
7825th Meeting (PM)

Security Council Fails to Adopt Draft Resolution to End Attacks on Aleppo as Two Permanent Members Cast Veto

Negative Votes Block Action after 11 Vote in Favour, 3 against, with 1 Abstention

Following vetoes wielded by China and the Russian Federation, the Security Council today failed to adopt a draft resolution that would have had all parties in Syria end attacks on the city of Aleppo within 24 hours.  The proposed cessation of hostilities would have lasted at least one week and would have demanded immediate safe access to all areas for humanitarian assistance.

By 11 votes in favour of the draft resolution to 3 against (China, Russian Federation, Venezuela), with 1 abstention (Angola), the Council rejected a text that would have barred “any and all attacks” in Aleppo, while demanding a cessation of hostilities throughout the country, except where operations were ongoing against groups it deemed terrorists.  The Council would have considered further seven-day extensions to the Aleppo ceasefire on a recurring basis.

Before the action, the Russian Federation’s representative said that Western members had rushed the vote, in violation of Council procedures, and ignored progress in negotiations between his country and the United States on the withdrawal of fighters from Aleppo and on humanitarian relief.  A ceasefire would only allow the fighters to reinforce their positions and to prolong the conflict, he said, emphasizing that the Russian Federation wanted agreements on initiatives that would succeed in ending the suffering in Syria.

However, the representative of the United States said there was no imminent agreement and that the Russian Federation merely wanted to delay Council action to preserve its military gains and allow continued bombing.

Following the vote, supporters of the draft expressed deep disappointment in the failure to relieve the suffering of Aleppo’s people.  Its sponsors — Egypt, New Zealand and Spain — emphasized the long negotiations and many compromises that had taken place in the quest for consensus.  New Zealand’s representative said today’s veto demonstrated that the Russian Federation was focused on military victory despite the carnage.

Other delegates who voted against the draft called for intensified political activity to end the crisis in Syria.  China’s representative urged an integrated approach to such an effort, with Council action complementing current diplomatic efforts.  Venezuela’s representative said a political solution must recognize the responsibility of the Government of Syria to protect its people from terrorism.

Some delegates who voted in favour of the draft commented on certain weaknesses in the text and urged that efforts to find a solution to the suffering in Aleppo continue.  Uruguay’s representative said he had voted in favour of a draft resolution that it considered inadequate in order to “at least achieve a pause in the massacre”.  Japan’s representative suggested that consultations to reach a consensus on action continue immediately after the adjournment of today’s meeting.

The representative of Syria, describing the United States, France and the United Kingdom as the “three musketeers” defending terrorism, with the support of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, asked where they had been when so-called moderate armed groups had bombed a Russian Federation field hospital in western Aleppo.  The Government of Syria and its allies had upheld previous periods of calms, which terrorist groups had exploited in order to regroup and obtain more weapons and supplies so as to continue their crimes against the Syrian people, he recalled.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Ukraine, Angola and Senegal.

Representatives of the Russian Federation, United States, China and Venezuela took the floor more than once.

The meeting began at 2:25 p.m. and ended at 4 p.m.

Action on Draft Resolution

Several delegations delivered statements before the vote.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) emphasized that a vote would violate the 24-hour rule since the draft resolution had only been submitted at 11:20 a.m. this morning.  Noting that the United States and the Russian Federation had agreed that discussions between experts would take place on 7 December, he said timetables for withdrawing fighters were to have been discussed alongside the issue of access for humanitarian aid.  However, the draft resolution made no mention of withdrawal, he said, pointing out that previous ceasefires had resulted in fighters reinforcing their positions.  Efforts by the Western “P3 troika” to rush the vote would only make the situation in Aleppo worse, he stressed.

MICHELE SISSON (United States) said it was not true that the Russian Federation was on the verge of striking a deal with her country.  Rather, it was focused on preserving its military gains and for that reason was delaying Security Council action, thereby allowing continued bombing with horrific consequences.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said that every time the Foreign Ministers of the two countries were about to reach agreement it was “toppled”, and the same thing had just happened again.  Calling for consistency in the actions of the United States — part of the troika that had pushed for today’s vote — he underlined that a vote would not result in any action to help the Syrian people.

As the Council took action on the draft resolution, 11 members voted in favour to 3 against (China, Russian Federation, Venezuela), with 1 abstention.  The Council thereby rejected the draft due to negative votes by China and the Russian Federation.

Statements

AMR ABDELATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said the Council had continuously failed the Syrian people because some preferred to serve narrow political interests over all else.  Emphasizing that the text tabled by Egypt, New Zealand and Spain was not based on political principles, he said it would have called upon all parties to the conflict to cease all attacks on Aleppo for seven consecutive days.  That would have allowed humanitarian assistance to Aleppo, he said, adding that the text would also have called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.  In addition, it would have called for armed groups to end their cooperation with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Nusrah.  He called on the International Syria Support Group to resume its work and for resumption of the political process on the transitional period, in accordance with the Geneva Declaration.

GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand), emphasizing that he was bitterly disappointed with the vote’s outcome, said the Council’s failure to act was deeply damaging to its Council reputation and catastrophic for the people of Syria.  Most of the Russian Federation’s points had been taken into account during negotiations, he said, adding that he had requested on Friday night that the Secretary-General put the draft resolution “in blue”.  The text had failed because of a simple procedural objection and today’s veto was another indictment of the Russian Federation, he said, adding that it demonstrated the wish of Moscow and Damascus for a purely military victory.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said he deeply regretted the failure to adopt the draft resolution because it remained the responsibility of Council members to support anything that would save lives.  The text had been a compromise, he said, adding that, if adopted, it would have represented a fragile ray of hope.  By delaying negotiations and opposing the draft resolution, the Russian Federation had turned a deaf year to the appeals of the international community.  Only a political solution could bring peace and allow an end to terrorism, he emphasized, expressing hope that Canada’s initiative in the General Assembly would be successful.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said the Russian Federation and its followers had again refused to allow action to end the horrors in Syria.  Dismissing that country’s “hackneyed” excuses, he said the draft resolution’s sponsors had been consulting with it for many days and had amended the text because of its comments.  Equally troubling, China had chosen to side with a party to the conflict which was aiding a despot who would allow his country to be reduced to rubble.  Blocking a seven-day ceasefire that would have allowed starving children to be fed was not fighting terrorism, he emphasized, adding that it was not too later for the Russian Federation to help save those suffering under siege.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said his delegation had voted in favour of a draft resolution that it considered inadequate in order to “at least achieve a pause in the massacre”.  Noting that the Security Council seemed unable to fulfil its role in the face of the continuing tragedy, he stressed the need for concerted efforts to bring about a political solution that would exclude terrorist groups.

LIU JEIYI (China) called for more intensive efforts to forge a Syrian-owned and Syrian-led political solution to the complex, sensitive and grave situation.  Council action should complement current diplomatic efforts, he said, adding that efforts for a consensus within the Council should have continued.  An integrated approach was needed, he stressed, asking the United Kingdom’s representative what right he had to distort the positions of other countries, and requesting that he stop poisoning the atmosphere in the “august body”.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) condemned indiscriminate attacks against civilians and humanitarian actors, including the recent attack by armed groups on a Russian Federation field hospital.  Venezuela had voted against the draft resolution because it did not appropriately reflect the situation on the ground, in particular the threat posed by Al-Nusrah in eastern Aleppo, he said, adding the conflict’s humanitarian dimension had once again been politicized.  While the Russian Federation and Syria were effectively fighting the terrorist threat, he said, foreign intervention had handicapped the Syrian Government’s commitment to protect its people against terrorism.  While the situation demanded a political solution, that did not mean that the Government of Syria had renounced its responsibility to protect its people, he emphasized.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia), recalling that he had often called for the Council to act more decisively, said the latest effort had been an attempt to let it discharge its responsibility.  The draft resolution’s objective was to reduce death and destruction, and the fate of thousands at risk of starvation was of utmost importance.  He said he had voted for the text and was gravely disappointed.  Actions were required to halt the fighting, thereby allowing the entry of humanitarian assistance that was so desperately missing.  Malaysia would continue to support any initiative, within or outside the Council, to seek an end to the situation in Aleppo, he emphasized.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENCKO (Ukraine) said he had voted in favour of the draft resolution in the hope that it would break the pattern of escalation in Syria.  The text represented a rare glimmer of hope, and Ukraine was extremely dismayed, but not surprised, that the Russian Federation had derailed the effort.  It had used the counter-terrorism argument as an alibi, he said, underlining the urgent need for the United Nations to examine reported indiscriminate use of such weapons as bunker-buster bombs.

Ms. SISSON (United States) said it seemed as though China and the Russian Federation, by wielding the veto to stop a brief humanitarian pause, did not want the suffering in Aleppo to end.  “Stop the bombing and stop the shelling and get people help,” she said in characterizing the text’s intention.  Many lives would unquestionably have been saved and there would have been opportunity for further progress had the draft been adopted, she added.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) emphasize that regardless of the political impasse within the Council, the priority was action to improve the situation in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria.  For that reason, Japan urged all Council members not to abandon collective and individual efforts to end the suffering, and to resume discussions to that end immediately after today’s meeting.

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said he had abstained from the vote because his delegation was working for a text that would be adopted by consensus.  The Council must unite in order to foster a lasting peace throughout Syria, he said, underlining the need for a clear, united vision of that goal and the action needed to realize it.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said he had voted in favour of the text, in response to appeals heard in the Council for urgent action to prevent eastern Aleppo from becoming an unprecedented tragedy.  He appealed to the International Syrian Support Group to reach an effective and lasting ceasefire that could provide the space for a solution and restore peace and stability in Syria.  That was the way to fight terrorist organizations, he emphasized.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain), Council President for November, spoke in his national capacity, expressing regret over the vetoes wielded against the draft resolution.  While not perfect, the text would have made protecting Aleppo’s population and re-establishing the cessation of hostilities possible, he said.  If peace could not be maintained, at least international humanitarian law should be respected.  Recalling that the draft resolution had been presented several days ago and that negotiations had been convened, he said the text incorporated the positions of all delegations, and everything possible had been done to reach consensus.

Mr. LIU (China), referring to the statement by the representative of the United States, asked where the genesis of the situation in Syria lay and how the problems in other Middle Eastern countries had begun.  There was a clear record that could not be distorted, he emphasized, adding that he would not repeat China’s position.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said his country was trying to foster an initiative that could succeed in ending the tragedy in Aleppo and in the rest of Syria.  The Russian Federation was negotiating with the United States for that purpose, he said, adding that he had been taken aback by the aggressiveness of the statement by his counterpart from the United States.  In addition, the Russian Federation rejected comparisons of the situation of the Donbas region in Ukraine with that of Syria.

Mr. RAMÍREZ (Venezuela), also responded to comments by the representative of the United States, saying that the interventionist policies of that country and its allies had been one of the main reasons for the destabilization of countries across the Middle East and North Africa, which propelled the rise of terrorism and led to the suffering in Syria.  Venezuela would continue to support peace, oppose intervention and counter terrorism as part of its contribution to the Council, he emphasized, while calling for a redoubling of efforts to find political solutions without foreign interference in the region.

Ms. SISSON (United States), reiterating that the Syrian Government’s brutal suppression of protests were at the origin of the current situation, said she rejected explanations for the continued suffering in Syria proffered by the opponents of today’s draft resolution.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) welcomed the comparison made by his Russian counterpart between his own country and Syria, saying that the Russian Federation used exactly the same methods in both countries — first intervene and then become a mediator.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said the United States, France and the United Kingdom were the “three musketeers” defending terrorism, with the support of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, demanding to know where the “three musketeers” had been when so-called moderate armed groups had bombed a Russian Federation field hospital in western Aleppo.  Those three Governments should have welcomed Syria’s fight against terrorism now that the threat was present in every corner of the world.  The Government of Syria, supported by its allies, would not surrender in its fight against terrorist activities, he said, emphasizing that it would expel from Aleppo terrorists from every corner of the country.He went on to state that the Government of Syria and its allies had upheld previous periods of calms, which terrorist groups had exploited to regroup and obtain more weapons and supplies so as to continue their crimes against the Syrian people.  Demanding to know when the Council had ever tried to impose a truce with terrorists through a resolution that would give them the opportunity to rearm, he said the international community should not fall victim to the attempt by some Council members to force through a resolution that would protect terrorism in Syria.

For information media. Not an official record.