US slams Russian ‘barbarism’ in Syria
The US slammed Russian ‘barbarism’ in Syria at the UN Security Council meeting, as Russian and Syrian jets bomb Aleppo
The United States on Sunday called Russia’s action in Syria “barbarism” not counter-terrorism while Moscow’s UN envoy said ending the war “is almost an impossible task now” as Syrian government forces, backed by Moscow, bombed the city of Aleppo.
The United Nations Security Council met on Sunday at the request of the United States, Britain and France to discuss the escalation of fighting in Aleppo following the announcement on Thursday of an offensive by the Syrian army to retake the city.
“What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counter-terrorism, it is barbarism,” US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told the 15-member council.
“Instead of pursuing peace, Russia and Assad make war. Instead of helping get life-saving aid to civilians, Russia and Assad are bombing the humanitarian convoys, hospitals, and first responders who are trying desperately to keep people alive,” said Power.
A Sept. 9 ceasefire deal between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov aimed at putting Syria’s peace process back on track effectively collapsed on Monday when an aid convoy was bombed.
“In Syria hundreds of armed groups are being armed, the territory of the country is being bombed indiscriminately and bringing a peace is almost an impossible task now because of this,” Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council.
Britain’s UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said on Sunday that the US and Russian bid to bring peace to Syria “is very, very near the end of its life and yes the Security Council needs to be ready to fulfill our responsibilities.”
“The regime and Russia have instead plunged to new depths and unleashed a new hell on Aleppo,” Rycroft told the council.
“Russia is partnering with the Syrian regime to carry out war crimes.”
However, Russia is one of five veto-powers on the council, along with the United States, France, Britain and China. Russia and China have protected Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government by blocking several attempts at council action.
“It is time to say who is carrying out those air strikes and who is killing civilians. Russia holds a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, this is a privilege and it is a responsibility. Yet in Syria and in Aleppo, Russia is abusing this historic privilege,” Power said.
As Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari began addressing the council, Power, Rycroft and French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre walked out of the chamber, diplomats said.
UN Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura briefed the council meeting on Sunday. He appealed to the council to come up with a way to enforce a cessation of hostilities in Syria.
“I am still convinced that we can turn the course of events. We have proven this more than once before,” he said, adding that he would not quit trying to bring peace in Syria.
“Any sign of me resigning would be a signal that the international community is abandoning the Syrians, and we will not abandon the Syrians, and neither will you,” he said.
Peace talks futile
Meanwhile, earlier on Sunday before the Security Council talks began, Syria’s mainstream rebel groups said the escalating Russian-backed bombing of besieged Aleppo had rendered any peace process futile unless there was an immediate halt to fighting and aid deliveries under United Nations auspices.
In a statement signed by more than 30 rebel groups including the biggest faction backed by Turkey, Gulf states and the West, they said the bombing campaign that has killed dozens in the past few days was “unprecedented” and rendered futile the UN-backed political process Washington and Moscow seek to revive.
The statement also said rebels could not accept “Russia as a sponsor because it was a partner with the regime in its crimes against our people,” saying Russian-backed Syrian forces were using napalm and chemical weapons without censure by the international community.
Jets bomb Aleppo
Russian and Syrian forces bombed a strategic camp on the northern edge of Aleppo on Sunday after losing control of it overnight, both rebels and the Syrian army said.
Rebels said the army used more powerful weapons in an attempt to recover Handarat, a Palestinian refugee camp a few kilometers north of the Aleppo which is on elevated ground overlooking one of the main roads into Aleppo that had been in rebel hands for years.
“We retook the camp, but the regime burnt it with phosphorous bombs ... We were able to protect it, but the bombing burnt our vehicles,” said Abu al-Hassanien, a commander in a rebel operations room that includes the main brigades fighting to repel the army assault.
The army which is being helped by Iranian-backed militias, Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah militant group and a Palestinian militia, acknowledged rebels had retaken Handarat, whose capture on Saturday briefly marked the first major ground advance by the army in a new offensive to recapture rebel held Aleppo.
“The Syrian army is targeting the armed groups positions in Handarat camp,” a military source was quoted on state media as saying.
The army announced on Thursday the start of a major new military campaign to regain Aleppo, intensifying strikes and use of powerful weapons that rebels said was an “shock and awe” campaign aimed at creating devastation and demoralizing them.
Russian planes also continued their pounding of residential parts of Aleppo, with whole buildings flattened, according to rebels and residents.
The assault on Aleppo, where more than 250,000 civilians are trapped, could be the biggest battle yet in a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven 11 million from their homes.
Two weeks after Moscow and Washington announced a ceasefire that quickly unraveled, President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies appear to have launched a campaign for a decisive battlefield victory that has buried any hope for diplomacy.