The UN Security Council strongly condemned Friday’s terrorist attacks in Syria and sent condolences to the victims, their families and the Syrian people — but not to the government, which is the usual council practice.
Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he left out several words to get support from all 15 council members.
The UN’s most powerful body remains deeply divided over the nine-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has led to its failure to adopt a resolution on Syria and acrimonious exchanges and heightened tensions, especially among major powers.
Western nations and the US are demanding a resolution threatening sanctions if the violence does not stop and condemning al-Assad’s crackdown, which the UN says has killed 5,000 people. However, Russia and China, which have closer ties to al-Assad’s regime, say extremist opponents of the government are equally responsible for the bloodshed and oppose any mention of sanctions.
While the council was able to agree on a press statement on Friday’s twin suicide bombs targeting Syria’s intelligence agencies, it could not agree on another Russian-proposed statement on Friday supporting the start of the Arab League mission to investigate Assad’s crackdown. It called on all parties to show maximum restraint, but made no mention of the government crackdown on civilians.
The council also remains at odds over a revised Russian-drafted resolution circulated on Friday, which German UN Ambassador Peter Wittig called “insufficient.”
He said the Western allies want a resolution incorporating all Syrian issues, including spelling out the Arab League demands, such as releasing political prisoners and calling for accountability for those who have perpetrated human rights violations.
Wittig said Friday’s bombings were “a sign of escalation, that the situation is rapidly deteriorating.” “It underlines the need ... for the council to act: We cannot let the things just happen, we need to act here and those events underline the need to act urgently,” he told reporters.
Churkin defended the Russian approach, which still calls for an end to violence and a Syrian-led political process.
However, he said even in early August, when the UN Security Council adopted a presidential statement endorsing these ideas: “Unfortunately Syria was already seen as a target of opportunity for regime change” by the Western allies.
The result, he said, is a situation “where Syria is very close to civil war.”
Churkin, who holds the council presidency this month, called a news conference to discuss the Russian-proposed statements and revised resolution on Syria — and also to respond to sharp comments on Thursday from US Ambassador Susan Rice at the end of a council meeting on Libya in which Churkin called for a UN investigation of civilian deaths from NATO’s bombing campaign.
Rice dismissed his call as “a cheap stunt” to distract from -Moscow’s failure to condemn the Syrian government’s ongoing killing of protesters, adding: “Oh, the bombast and bogus claims.”
The US, France, Germany and others have hailed the NATO bombing campaign for saving hundreds of thousands of Libyan lives. However, Russia and its supporters say that NATO misused the limited council resolution imposing a no-fly zone and authorizing the protection of civilians as a pretext to promote regime change in Libya.