On 13 February Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia had presented two U.N. Security Council draft resolutions on humanitarian aid access and the fight against "terrorism" in Syria. Russia counter-offered an earlier draft resolution backed by the West and the Syrian opposition, which Russia called biased against the government of Assad. Russia’s calls for a resolution condemning acts of "terrorism" are in tune with rhetoric of the Assad-regime.
Lavrov rejected the earlier draft, saying it contains an ultimatum for the government of President Bashar al-Assad and fails to stress the growing number of terror attacks in Syria. “They heap all the blame on the regime without devoting the necessary attention to the humanitarian problems that are being created by the actions of the rebels” Lavrov said.
The new draft aims to facilitate the delivery of aid to Syrian civilians and reportedly includes other items from the Western draft resolution text. However, it excluded an earlier provision which required Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to resign. Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, presented his country’s text to the four other permanent Security Council members, to try to merge the two texts. Lavrov said Russia would block any resolution that would sanction the Assad-regime.
Syrian Peace talks
Meanwhile, Syrian peace talks in Geneva make sluggish progress. International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi is trying to keep the diplomatic push alive but said: “We are not making much progress”. The National Coalition, Syria’s main opposition group wants a transitional government without President Bashar al-Assad, but the government will not discuss his leaving.
Louay Safi, National Coalition spokesperson said: “It is obvious the regime is stalling and still believes in a military solution”. Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal Mokdad, on his part, said “Today was another lost day because the representatives of the Coalition insisted that there is no terrorism in Syria”.
Meanwhile the conflict in Syria is worsening. Syrian activists said more people have been killed in the last three weeks than at any other time in the civil war, averaging 230 people a day. In total 130.000 people have been killed since the conflict began, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Western leaders allied with the Syrian opposition have criticized Russia’s persistent support of the Assad regime. American President Obama said: "It is not just the Syrians that are responsible" for the plight of civilians but "the Russians, as well, if they are blocking this kind of resolution".
China’s ambassador to the UN, Liu Jieyi, said: “We’re all concerned about the humanitarian problem in Syria and the important things are to achieve unity of the council and also to work in ways that will actually facilitate the ongoing political process in Geneva”.
Russia has been Assad's most powerful international ally during the civil conflict, joining China in blocking three Western-backed resolutions aimed to put pressure on him.
Author: Koen Migchelbrink