Russia blocks U.N. statement on Aleppo

Russia’s amendments to the British-sponsored statement watered it down so it had no meaningful impact on the situation in Aleppo

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Russia blocked a U.N. Security Council statement on Wednesday that would denounce the Syrian government’s air strikes on rebels in the city of Aleppo with Scud missiles and barrel bombs that have killed some 700 civilians.

The British-sponsored draft press statement would not have been enforceable but it could have been a building block toward a later resolution.

Britain circulated the draft press statement to the other 14 members of the council Tuesday to express “outrage” at the government attacks on civilians.

In the statement, a copy of which was obtained by Agence France-Presse, the council members “expressed outrage at the daily use of air strikes by the Syrian government against the city of Aleppo which have left over 700 dead and over 3,000 injured since Dec. 15.”

They called the attacks “cynical and systematic” in its disregard for international law banning attacks on civilians.

However, consensus agreement among the 15 Security Council members is required for adoption, so the draft was effectively killed.

The statement had Russia insisting that all references to Aleppo be taken out, AFP reported diplomats as saying.

A U.N. diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that Russia introduced amendments to the statement that watered it down so it had no meaningful impact on the situation in Aleppo.

Britain could no longer support the draft language during the private negotiations.

Another U.N. diplomat told Reuters that the council could not reach an agreement because Russia’s amendments “clearly designed to rob the statement of any reference to what has happened in Aleppo.”

A spokesman for the Russian mission declined to comment.

It was the second time in a month that Russia objected to a western bid to slam President Bashar al-Assad’s air assault against Syria’s biggest city that has killed hundreds since Dec. 15.

Russia, Syria’s key council ally, halted a similar American-sponsored draft statement in December that singled out Syria for condemnation, by loading it up with so many amendments that the U.S. Mission could no longer support it.

The draft statement would also have condemned violence by all parties in the Syrian conflict.

The United States had doubts about releasing the new statement so close to the Syria peace conference due to start in Geneva on Jan. 22, diplomats said.

“The Security Council cannot remain quiet on this issue,” AFP quoted one Western diplomat as saying.

He added: “The British draft is not anything that anyone should be surprised by.”

More than 100,000 people have been killed and millions forced from their homes in Syria’s nearly three-year civil war.

(With AFP, AP and Reuters)

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