UN council to vote on Aleppo truce, Russian veto expected

UN council to vote on Aleppo truce, Russian veto expected

The UN Security Council will vote on two rival resolutions on Syria on Saturday, one drafted by France calling for an end to air raids on Aleppo and a second by Russia that makes no mention of a halt to the bombings.

The French resolution urges Russia and the United States to ensure an immediate truce in Syria’s Aleppo and “put an end to all military flights over the city,” the French U.N. envoy said.

Russia signaled it would veto the resolution, drafted by France and Spain.

French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said on Friday he has asked for the draft resolution to be put to a vote on Saturday. In Washington, French Foreign Minister Jean-Mark Ayrault said that he planned to go to New York for the vote.

“I still have hope that the resolution will pass and that it can be implemented,” Ayrault told reporters in Washington.

He also appeared to echo comments by others, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, suggesting Russia could be complicit in war crimes in Syria.

“The U.N. secretary-general has spoken of war crimes. It’s the reality,” Ayrault said.

The draft text, seen by Reuters, also asks U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to propose options for a U.N.-supervised monitoring of a truce and threatens to “take further measures” in the event of non-compliance by “any party to the Syrian domestic conflict.”

Russian veto

“This is not a draft which is right for adoption, I have this suspicion that the real motive is to cause a Russian veto,” said Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Friday. “I cannot possibly see how we can let this resolution pass.”

“It is unprecedented for the members of the council to ask a permanent member to limit its own activities,” Churkin said.

“I’m supposed to vote for a demand that then our military will have to comply with. It doesn’t mean that certain things cannot happen but they can’t happen through a certain process, which is definitely not putting a resolution with this kind of text on the table,” he said.

If the French paper failed, the council will then move to a second vote on the Russian-drafted text that calls for a ceasefire but makes no specific mention of stopping the aerial bombardment of Aleppo.

The Russian text, obtained by AFP on Friday, “urges immediate implementation of the cessation of hostilities, in particular in Aleppo” and demands that all parties allow deliveries of humanitarian aid.

A Security Council diplomat, who asked not to be named, said the Russian “resolution on the surface looks like a lot of constructive language that draws from previous resolutions and the French draft, but the key point is that it does not call for an end to the aerial bombardment.”

He said the “vast majority” of council members want “an immediate end to the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Aleppo.”

Russia and China have previously protected the Syrian government from council action by blocking several resolutions, including a bid to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

A moment of truth

The decision to move to a vote followed days of shuttle diplomacy by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who traveled to Moscow and Washington to secure agreement on the draft resolution.

Ayrault, who will attend the council meeting on Saturday, said the vote will be a “moment of truth for all the members of the Security Council.”

“Do you want a ceasefire in Aleppo, yes or no? And the question is in particular for our Russian partner,” the foreign minister said in Washington.

European countries and the United States are shifting toward a tougher line on Russia over its actions in Syria and have suggested that sanctions could be imposed.

The United States on Friday called for Russia and Syria to be investigated for war crimes for the bombing of hospitals.

“Russia and the regime owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals and medical facilities, children and women,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

The Assad regime forces, backed by Russian air power, Iranian ground forces and Shi’ite militia fighters from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, has been tightening its grip on rebel-held districts of Aleppo this year, and this summer achieved a long-held goal of fully encircling the area.

Recovering full control of the rebels’ last significant urban area would be the most important victory of the war so far for Assad, strengthening his control over Syria’s most populous and strategically important regions.

The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.