Just three weeks after yet another "landmark" Syria peace deal was signed, the agreement is not only in tatters but the war drums are beating louder than ever before after the US slammed Russia's action in Syria as "barbarism," not counter-terrorism, while Moscow's U.N. envoy said ending the war "is almost an impossible task now" as Syrian government forces, backed by Moscow, bombed the city of Aleppo.
As Reuters reported overnight, the UN 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," U.S. 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," Power said.
As reported previously, the September 9 ceasefire deal between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov aimed at putting Syria's peace process back on track effectively collapsed in what may be a record short period of time last Monday when an aid convoy was bombed. Russsia and the US have both accused each other of being the party responsible behind the bombinb.
"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 U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council. Britain's U.N. ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, said on Sunday the U.S. 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, any attempts to "rein in" Russia are doomed to fail as the country 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.
Unfazed by the logistical impossibility of the UN to actually do anything, Power said that "It is time to say who is carrying out those air strikes and who is killing civilians. Russia holds a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. This is a privilege and it is a responsibility. Yet in Syria and in Aleppo, Russia is abusing this historic privilege."
As Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari began addressing the council, Power, Rycroft and French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre walked out of the chamber, diplomats said. "Any political solution can only be successful by providing the requisite conditions through intensified efforts to fight terrorism," Ja'afari told the council. "The real war on terrorism has never started yet. The advent of Syrian victory is imminent."
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Earlier today, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said the US and its Western partners are trying to steer the world’s attention away from their airstrikes on the Syrian Army by accusing Russia of attacking a UN humanitarian convoy outside the Aleppo. "I would like to emphasize that the Americans and their Western allies, for one thing, want to distract public attention from what had happened in Deir-az-Zor,” Lavrov told NTV on Monday following the urgent meeting of the UN Security Council.
“When the humanitarian convoy was hit [outside Aleppo], we demanded that an investigation be conducted. [US Secretary of State] John Kerry, a good partner of mine, behaved the way he never has done previously. He claimed that the investigation might take place, but they know who did it, namely the Syrian Army or Russia, and that it was Russia's fault in any case,” he said quoted by RT.
Kerry appeared to be “pinned down by stark criticism from the American military apparatus,” Lavrov noted, which may indicate that the US military does not comply with its commander-in-chief’s orders.
“[President] Barack Obama always supported, as I was told, cooperation with Russia, and he confirmed it himself during the meeting with [President] Vladimir Putin in China. It seems to me that the military may not be obeying their supreme commander too much.”
Lavrov went on by saying that Washington is trying to continue finger-pointing at Russia and hold it accountable for what is happening in Syria. Such approach is counterproductive and leaves Moscow wary of the US-led coalition’s actions, the FM said, adding that there is no room for “100 percent trust.”
In turn, Moscow will push for a detailed investigation into the attack on the humanitarian convoy, the minister said. The US and the West are not coping with their obligations on combating the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Lavrov said. “It is clear that the West, led by the US which runs the anti-IS coalition and, as they put it, Al-Nusra Front in Syria, do not cope with their obligation.”
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Meanwhile, as the peace process has completely fallen apart, the bombing campaign of Aleppo has resumed. According to the WSJ, Syria and its Russian allies pressed an assault on Aleppo amid what the United Nations called the most intense bombing in years of warfare there, and residents said hundreds of civilians have been killed since a cease-fire fell apart last week. The surge in deaths came as a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over the weekend cited reports of “bunker buster bombs.” The bombs have left large craters in the rebel-held part of the divided city, Aleppo residents said, and caused shock waves felt blocks away from the point of impact.
A man walks on the rubble of damaged buildings after an airstrike on the
rebel held al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria September 25, 2016
Rebels and opposition leaders blamed Russia, Syria’s key ally, for the bunker-buster bombs. The Russian Defense Ministry didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. “The first time one struck, everyone thought there was an earthquake,” said Muhammad al-Zein, who helps oversee hospitals in the rebel-held part of Aleppo. “But the next day another one hit and we realized it was not an earthquake.”
President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to retake all of Aleppo and the offensive was the latest indication that he aims to win the war militarily despite repeated efforts by the U.S. and Russia to reach a lasting cease-fire and a diplomatic solution. Syrian state media reported that the army on Saturday seized control of an area north of Aleppo city called Handarat Camp. Within hours, rebels said they had retaken the territory.
With the Syrian war once again front and center, and this time the possibility of a Chinese intervention - on the side of the Assad regime all too real - the recent warning by a Syrian politican that World War III has started in Syria suddenly does not appear too far fetched.