Russia blocks United Nations draft on Syria’s Qusayr amid violence

Published: Updated:

Russia on Saturday blocked a U.N. Security Council declaration of alarm over the bloody siege of the Syrian town of Qusayr by the Syrian army and Hezbollah allies, U.N. diplomats said.

Britain, president of the 15-nation council, circulated a draft statement to fellow members voicing “grave concern about the situation in Qusayr, Syria, and in particular the impact on civilians of the ongoing fighting,” Reuters news agency reported.

The assault launched by the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to capture Qusayr began two weeks ago, leaving hundreds wounded.

Russia blocked the draft text, saying it was “not advisable to speak out as the U.N. Security Council didn't when Qusair was taken by the opposition,” a council diplomat said on condition of anonymity as quoted by Reuters.

Another diplomat confirmed the remarks.

The news comes as Syrian rebels were bracing Sunday for a fresh assault in Qusayr after fierce fighting a day earlier in the north of the town, a watchdog said.

Fears of another attack renewed concerns about the fate of the civilians trapped there, who include an estimated 1,500 wounded according to the United Nations.

Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog, told AFP on Saturday that “there are ongoing clashes in northern Qusayr, and the opposition fighters are fighting with everything they've got.

“Regime forces are reinforcing the sites that they have north of the city, including Dabaa airport and Jawadiya,” he added.

The group said at least 15 tanks were massed north of Qusayr, a key prize for both the regime and the rebels as it links Damascus to the coast, and is near the Lebanese border, providing a key rebel conduit for weapons and fighters.

The Syrian opposition said on Friday that rebel reinforcements had now reached the area.

But there were growing fears for the thousands of civilians trapped in the battle for the town, which has raged for nearly two weeks.

Abdel Rahman said around 1,000 wounded people were trapped inside Qusayr.

Meanwhile, a joint statement by U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos and U.N. human rights commissioner Navi Pillay said: “We understand there may also be as many as 1,500 wounded people in urgent need of immediate evacuation for emergency medical treatment, and that the general situation in Al-Qusayr is desperate.”

They were “extremely alarmed” by reports that civilian neighborhoods were under fire, they added according to AFP.

“We urge the parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian agencies to evacuate the wounded and provide life-saving treatment and supplies.”

In New York, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon urged “all sides to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties,” spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement.

Ban also called on all sides to help trapped civilians escape the town.