UN Security Council holds urgent meeting on Syria conflict with calls for truce

Updated: 2016-09-26 09:45


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UN Security Council holds urgent meeting on Syria conflict with calls for truce

Photo taken on Sept 25, 2016 shows the United Nations Security Council holding an emergency meeting on the situation in Syria, at the UN headquarters in New York, the United States.[Photo/Xinhua]

UNITED NATIONS - During a testy -- including a walkout -- emergency Security Council meeting on Sunday called in wake of "one of the worst" weeks in Syria in nearly six years of fighting, the UN special envoy vowed to continue his role but pleaded with the panel "to enforce a cessation of hostilities (CoH) in Syria."

The walkout, by the ambassadors of France, Britain and the United States, occurred while Syria's Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari near the end of the 2 1/2 hour session on the increased Syrian attacks on "terrorists" in his country's "second capital," said, "The Syrian government will recapture the whole town of Aleppo. The entire town."

"These are indeed chilling days," said Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy, for Syria and "for the people of Aleppo in particular. The past week has been one of the worst ones in Syria during the near six years of this devastating conflict."

He asked the council to press for a cessation of the violence and protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, weekly 48-hour pauses in the fighting for aid convoys "without preconditions neither from the government nor frankly from the opposition" and "to press for medical evacuations ... from eastern Aleppo."

"Amid intensive air strikes reported on Friday, following the announcement of the beginning of a government offensive, an announcement was made by the government itself," de Mistura said, resulting in "scores of reported civilian deaths and injuries, including those of many children."

"We have seen the situation in eastern Aleppo deteriorate to new heights of horror," the veteran diplomat said.

"I am still convinced that we can turn the course of events," he said. "We have proven this more than once before."

De Mistura said he has been asked several times, "'Why don' t you resign at this point? Frankly all this is leading nowhere and this will send a strong signal.' No I am not. Because 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."

All 15 members of the council spoke during the session, many siding with Britain, France and the United States -- who called the meeting -- while a few sided with Russia in what has turned the Syrian civil war into a proxy battle many say is reminiscent of the Cold War. A few were quite direct, rather undiplomatically, naming states they felt were in the wrong.

Russia says it was invited by Syria to help fight off terrorists and the West says it is supporting only "moderate" rebels and not terrorists.

Ja'afari insisted the Syrian government was only defending itself from terrorists but would sit down with representatives of non-terrorist opposition groups.

He said Britain, France and the United Sates, "weep and they have crocodile tears" for Aleppo and asked if Britain would give away Scotland, France relinquish Corsica or "the United States give away Texas."

"The Syrian government will not give away a single inch of our territory," said the Damascus envoy who accused the trio of western nations of "falsely" calling armed opposition groups in Syria "moderates."

Britain's Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, French Ambassador Francois Delattre, walked out of the council chamber while the Syrian ambassador was speaking.

"We need to decide how to stop this, now," Rycroft said of the Aleppo siege on Twitter. "Syria's UN ambassador is not interested in that decision. That's why I just walked out of" the UN Security Council.

"France, together with the US and the UK (United Kingdom), called for this emergency meeting of the Security Council because we are simply horrified by what we are watching in Aleppo," Delattre told reporters after the walkout. "Aleppo is to Syria what Sarajevo was to Bosnia, or what Guernica was to the Spanish war."

"This city epitomizes the Syrian tragedy more than any other," he said. "Aleppo, this symbolic city that dates back several millennia, this world heritage site, this crossroads where so many civilizations colluded and converged, is now experiencing a medieval type of siege. What a symbol, and frankly, what a shame!"

"Today, the Syrian regime and its allies are sending a message loud and clear to the world, the Paris envoy said. "They are determined to besiege, starve, and bomb Aleppo until they reach their military goal: eradicating the opposition. That is what this siege is all about. It is clear that the various negotiations were nothing else in the minds of the regime in Damascus than a smoke screen."

"That's why France is calling for the immediate implementation of the US-Russia (CoH) agreement, starting in Aleppo: Aleppo first in terms of both the cessation of hostilities and the humanitarian access."