The United Nations Security Council was able to adopt a resolution emphasizing that Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory have no legal validity. The resolution was adopted as the United States abstained rather than use its veto, as it has frequently done in the past.
On Friday the 23rd of December, the Security Council adopted a resolution stating that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory constitute a violation of international law and pose an obstacle to a two-state solution and lasting peace. The resolution demands that Israel cease all settlement activities in the territory, including East Jerusalem, and stresses that these activities are a threat to the two-state solution. The resolution also calls for intensified diplomatic efforts to achieve a lasting peace in the region.
The resolution was adopted with 14 votes in favor. The United States, who has frequently vetoed draft resolutions addressing the situation, abstained from voting, allowing the resolution to be adopted. The most recent veto from the United States was in 2011, on a draft resolution bearing some similarities to the one passed on the 23rd, and it has long been suspected that President Obama would allow a resolution addressing the Israeli settlements, of which he has been critical, to pass before the inauguration of Donald Trump on the 20th of January. Donald Trump has been critical of the resolution.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision “shameful”, and has instructed the Foreign Ministry to re-assess the country’s ties with the United Nations. Already, the country has cancelled funding for five U.N. institutions it deems “especially hostile” to Israel.
The resolution was initially presented to the Security Council by Egypt, but was withdrawn before the vote after Israel had asked Donald Trump to intervene as it feared the United States would abstain. The resolution was re-introduced by Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, and Venezuela.
After two draft resolutions addressing the situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo have failed to be adopted this autumn due to Russian and Chinese vetoes, the Security Council has finally agreed on a resolution to send observers to the city to monitor the evacuation of civilians.
Monday the 19th of December, the Security Council unanimously voted for a draft resolution that would deploy UN observers to monitor the evacuation of civilians from Aleppo. The resolution is the result of three hours of private discussions, after France circulated a draft resolution suggesting UN observers on Friday, that Russia threatened to veto. Russia proceeded to table its own draft resolution, which allegedly did not mention observers specifically but called for arrangements to monitor the condition of civilians remaining in Aleppo.
The adopted resolution reportedly asks the Secretary-General “to take urgent steps to make arrangements, including security arrangements in consultation with interested parties, to allow the observation by the UN and other relevant institutions of the well-being of civilians… inside the eastern districts of Aleppo”. It also called for “adequate, neutral monitoring and direct observation on evacuations from eastern Aleppo and other districts of the city”.
Evacuations from Aleppo started on Thursday under a deal that allows Syrian government forces to take full control over the city, the eastern parts of which has long been controlled by rebel groups. Disagreements caused the evacuations to stall on Friday, and on Sunday some of the buses meant to carry out the evacuation were attacked and set on fire. Operations resumed on Monday, with 5 000 people leaving Aleppo in 75 buses.
On Monday the 5th of December, a draft resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities in Aleppo was vetoed by Russia and China. This was the sixth draft resolution concerning Syria that has been vetoed since the beginning of the conflict in 2011. Meanwhile, a military victory in Aleppo for the Syrian government forces is looking imminent.
The draft resolution, introduced by Egypt, Spain and New Zealand, called for a week-long cessation of hostilities against all actors, including those designated terrorist groups, in Aleppo and demanded immediate safe access to all areas of the city for humanitarian assistance. The draft resolution also called for a ceasefire in the rest of Syria, but allowed for ongoing operations against terrorist groups.
Vitaly Churkin, representing Russia at the Security Council, claimed that the vote had been rushed, and that member states had not been given the customary 24-hour period to consider the final wording of the text. Furthermore, Churkin claimed that the resolution ignored and undermined ongoing negotiations between Russia and the United States on withdrawal of fighters from Aleppo and humanitarian relief, and that a ceasefire would only allow fighters to reinforce their positions and prolong the conflict. Liu Jieyi, the Chinese representative, stressed that council action should complement current diplomatic effort and that more intensive efforts to forge a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process were needed, adding that efforts to reach consensus in the Security Council should have continued. Venezuela also voted against the draft resolution, with Angola abstaining.
The positions of Russia and China drew heavy criticism from other Council members, with the United Kingdom’s Matthew Rycroft dismissing Russia’s arguments as hackneyed and Michele Sisson, the United States’ deputy representative to the UN , accusing Russia of protecting its military gains. The atmosphere in the Security Council on this issue is uncooperative, to say the least.
On the ground in Aleppo, Syrian government forces are reported to have recaptured 75% of the previously rebel-controlled areas in the eastern parts of the city in the last weeks. Over 100 000 civilians are believed to still be under siege without access to food and medicine in areas still controlled by the rebels. According to Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Syria’s army has suspended combat operations in the area to allow evacuation of civilians, but reports from the ground indicate that the fighting is still on-going, although somewhat eased.
The words “our generation’s shame” was used by Stephen O’Brien last month, when describing the Security Council’s inability to act when it comes to the situation for the civilians of Aleppo. In a press release, the Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office, Sherine Tadros, also decided to describe the Security Council “shameful.”
“It is becoming clearer every day that the UN Security Council has failed the Syrian people.” Those are the words of Sherine Tadros, Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office, as the organization appeals to the member states of the United Nations to call an Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly to do what the Security Council cannot. Besides Amnesty, 222 other civil society organizations have signed the appeal.
The appeal calls on member states to “demand and end to all unlawful attacks in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, and immediate and unhindered humanitarian access so that life-saving aid can reach all those in need.” The appeal also highlights the need for accountability, and that those committing serious crimes against international law are brought to justice.
It is not the first time the Security Council has been criticized over its inability to act over the war in Syria. During the last few month, UN staff such as Stephen O’Brien, the UN’s humanitarian chief, and Staffan de Mistura, the Special Envoy for Syria, have both warned against letting the situation continue unabated and called for Security Council action. Sherine Tadros adds to that criticism: “There have been almost half a million deaths, and each one is a stark rebuke of the Security Council, the supposed guardian of international peace and security, which has allowed a political deadlock to stand in the way of saving lives.”
Reportedly, a draft resolution on a 10-day truce in Aleppo is being circulated in the Security Council. It remains to be seen if Russia, who last vetoed a resolution calling for an end to aerial bombardments and an investigation into alleged war crimes in early October, will let such a resolution pass. For the sake of the Syrian people it should – but it may be too little too late as, hundreds of thousands of people have already suffered the fatal consequences of war.
While the United States has reversed its previous skepticism about an arms embargo on South Sudan and circulated a draft resolution, Russia and China are still expressing doubt over such a move.
Last week, the United States circulated a draft resolution imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan in an effort to limit the spread of weapons and lower the risk of genocide in the country. The circulated draft resolution also suggested additional targeted sanctions, in addition to the six generals from both sides of the conflict already subject to asset freezes and travel bans.
The draft resolution does not seem to have convinced other key members of the Security Council. On Friday, the Security Council issued a statement condemning attacks against civilians and urging the parties to pursue a political process to end the violence. No resolution on further sanctions or an arms embargo were put forward for a vote, although the statement did note that the Council may take additional measures in order to prevent further escalation of violence and conflict if the situation does not improve. Such measures could include targeted sanctions.
Russia and China have long been skeptical over imposing an arms embargo, arguing that weapons are already widespread in the country and an embargo would do little to change the situation. Petr Iliichev, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, stated that an arms embargo “would hardly be helpful in settling the conflict,” and that “introducing targeted sanctions against South Sudanese leaders would be the height of irresponsibility now.” Both Russia and China holds a veto at the Security Council, and an arms embargo or sanctions cannot be imposed if they vote against it.
The statement and draft resolution comes after the Council was briefed last week by the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan, Ellen Løj. The situation in the country has escalated in the past months, as a peace agreement from last year has failed to end the violence, which is largely taking on ethnic lines, sparking fears of an imminent genocide in the country.
As civilians continue to die in Aleppo, the Security Council has resorted to debate the fairness of reports of the humanitarian situation in the city, as the Russian veto blocks substantive actions. Meanwhile, member states are looking to the General Assembly for a possible way around the Security Council deadlock.
“Our generation’s shame” – that is how the UN humanitarian chief, Stephen O’Brien, described the Security Council’s inability to act on the humanitarian disaster in today’s Aleppo. During a meeting in New York, O’Brien criticized representative envoys from the Security Council’s member states. He stressed that Aleppo has become a “kill zone”, and the critique was indeed blistering: “If you don’t take action, there will be no Syrian peoples or Syria to save – that will be this council’s legacy, our generation’s shame”.
O’Brien’s attack on the Security Council’s inability to act, and the bombings conducted by Russia and the Syrian regime, failed to spark action, but instead led to more debate and squabbling among the council’s two main camps; Russia and China on one side, and France, the United Kingdom and the United States on the other. The Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, stated that O’Brien’s report was “unfair and dishonest”, something which caused great debate between the other ambassadors. Subsequently, the debate concerned Russian-led bombings of Aleppo, and its unwillingness to submit to negotiations in the Security Council. The Russians were criticized for its “attack on the UN”, and all negotiations stalled.
Once again, the Security Council failed, despite harsh internal criticism, to act at all. Instead they plunged into squabbling over the report by O’Brien. While the Security Council remains deadlocked, many United Nations member states have called for the General Assembly to hold an emergency special session to take action. An informal meeting to discuss the Syrian situation was held on the initiative of Canada and 70 other member states on the 20th of October. Whether an emergency special session will be convened in the near future, and whether it can lead to substantive action, remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the death tolls in Aleppo continue to increase, and civilians continue to suffer as a result of the Security Council’s veto-induced inaction.
As had been expected, a French-Spanish draft resolution addressing the situation in Syria was vetoed by Russia. The veto means civilians in Aleppo are likely to continue to suffer amidst heavy bombardment by Syrian and Russian aircraft.
On Saturday, France and Spain presented a draft resolution on the situation in Syria to the United Nations Security Council. The resolution called for a cessation of hostilities, the establishment of a military no-fly-zone over Aleppo, unhindered humanitarian access, and holding perpetrators of atrocities accountable.
However, as expected, the veto was vetoed by Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed the resolution distorted the reality of the situation in Syria, and that a ban on the aerial bombardments would provide cover to terrorists. The reality, that the resolution allegedly distorted, is that about 275 000 civilians are trapped by the siege of eastern Aleppo, suffering through daily bombings of bunker-buster bombs and incendiary weapons and starvation as aid convoys are blocked from entering the city.
“Thanks to your actions today, Syrians will continue to lose their lives in Aleppo and beyond to Russian and Syrian bombing. Please stop now”, Matthew Rycroft, the British Ambassador to the United Nations, told his Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin.
Russia put forward a rival draft resolution, which constituted a version of the French-Spanish resolution with Russian amendments, such as leaving out the call for a military no-fly-zone. The Russian resolution only gained four votes in favor, well below the requirement of nine votes in favor.
Saturday was the fifth time Russia vetoed a resolution addressing Syria since the beginning of the conflict in 2011. The first four times, the Russian vetoes where joined by China. On Saturday, the Chinese abstained their vote on the French-Spanish resolution, while voting in favor of the Russian resolution.
After the U.S.-Russian brokered ceasefire ceased to be two weeks ago, the fighting in Syria has entered a new phase. The last two weeks have been the worst since the start of the conflict five and a half years ago. Still, the veto blocks the Security Council from taking action.
“Barbarism.” That is how Samantha Power, the United States’ ambassador to the UN, described the Syrian and Russian airstrikes in Aleppo. During the last offensive, which has lasted two weeks, more than 400 civilians, many of them children, have died. 250 000 civilians remain trapped in the bombings and major hospitals and humanitarian convoys have been targeted, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the city. Several world leaders and United Nations officials have condemned the attacks, labeling them war crimes.
Still, the Security Council remains blocked from taking action. Russia’s support for the Assad regime in Syria, and their part in the current bombings, means any attempt from the Security Council to act would be blocked by a Russian veto. Discussions at the Security Council have led nowhere, as Russian and U.S. diplomats disagree, and a diplomatic solution looks distant. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has warned that the U.S. is on the verge of ending diplomatic talks with Russia, as those are seen as futile, and instead move on to other options.
Since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011, at least 250 000 people have been killed, with independent organization Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimating the true number to be about 430 000. More than 4,8 million people have fled abroad, and 6,5 million others have been displaced within the country.
A report accusing the Syrian government as well as the Islamic State for using chemical weapons in Syria has been presented to the United Nations Security Council, but due to Russian critique, it may not lead to any Security Council action.
The United Nations Security Council is, once again, deadlocked. On this occasion, the disagreement concerns a report, published by the United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The inquiry, conducted by mentioned organisation, concerns the use of chemical weapons in Syria during the current conflict, and has been going on for over a year with the authorisation of the Security Council. Apart from concluding that troops belonging to the Islamic State used sulphur mustard gas, the report also held the Syrian government responsible for the use of chlorine gas attacks.
In 2013, after crossing US President Barack Obama’s “thin red line,” the Syrian regime yielded to the demand to destroy its chemical arsenal in accordance with a deal struck between Russia and the United States. The Security Council supported the deal with a resolution which prohibited all warring parties in Syria to use any chemical weapons. The resolution also stated that any further use of chemical weapons in Syria would result in measures under the United Nations Charter’s Chapter 7. “Measures under Chapter 7” would entail sanctions, and a Security Council mandate to use military force against the responsible actor.
However, the report by OPCW divided the Security Council’s key players; the five veto nations with France, the United Kingdom and the United States in one camp and Russia and China in the other. The latter ones have expressed their support for the Syrian regime, and the Russians have questioned the report’s accusation of the Syrian government for the use of chemical weapons, claiming the Security Council cannot use the conclusions to impose sanctions.
If Russia and China oppose a potential Security Council resolution nothing will happen. The veto right will entrench the status quo. As long as national interests govern, the situation will not change. While the Security Council tries to produce a resolution which will receive the approval of all veto nations, the Syrian conflict rages on, and people continue to die.
Reuters: Russia questions report blaming Syrian government for gas attacks
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After failing to adopt a statement condemning North Korean missile activities earlier this month due to Chinese opposition, the United Nations Security Council have now adopted a statement deploring all North Korean ballistic missile activities.
Following a series of North Korean missile launches during the year, which have continued despite repeated condemnations from the United Nations Security Council, the Security Council have adopted yet another condemnation. The condemnation concerns the latest missile launch, conducted from a submarine on the 23rd of August, but highlights the repeated violations by North Korea, and includes condemnations of previous launches during the summer.
Earlier this month, Stop Illegitimate Vetoes reported that the Security Council were in disagreement over the formulation of a draft statement condemning the North Korean missile launch that landed in Japanese-controlled waters. That statement was not passed partly due to Chinese opposition to the explicit mention of the missile’s landing place, and partly due to China’s request for the inclusion of a sentence urging parties not deploy anti-ballistic systems in the region, which the United States and Japan did not accept as they have recently launched such a system. The condemnation adopted this week did not include such language.