UN's future in the balance as Security Council struggles to agree on Syria ceasefire resolution

France said failure to act in Syria could spell the end of the UN itself. .

Air strikes have killed 462 people in Eastern Ghouta this week (Photo: Lebarate)
Air strikes have killed 462 people in Eastern Ghouta this week (Photo: Lebarate)

The UN Security Council is finding it hard to agree on a resolution seeking a ceasefire in Syria, delaying a vote on the issue until later today.

The vote has already been rescheduled several times since Thursday. Russia is calling for changes to the draft that calls for a 30-day truce to allow for humanitarian aid and medical evacuations.

Western diplomats have accused Russia, Syria's key ally, of stalling. France said failure to act could spell the end of the UN itself.
France's UN ambassador François Delattre said the UN's inability to help Syrian civilians would result in a devastating loss of credibility.

"The Syrian tragedy must not also become a graveyard for the United Nations," he added.

The urgency of the task at hand has been highlighted by the plight of civilians in the Eastern Ghouta rebel stronghold, where 462 people are thought to have been killed in airstrikes this week.

Western powers suspect that Moscow wants to give Syria time to wipe out rebel forces defending the enclave which lies on the edge of Damascus.

The United States, the UK and France had called for the resolution to be approved without delay. UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura said a truce had to be followed by immediate, unhindered access to the Eastern Ghouta.

In Washington yesterday evening, US President Donald Trump blamed Syria and its allies, Russia and Iran, for the humanitarian crisis, calling their actions a “disgrace.”

The draft, put forward by Kuwait and Sweden, calls for a nationwide truce to brought into effect 72 hours after the passing of the resolution.

Medical evacuations and aid deliveries would start 48 hours after that. The draft says 5.6 million people in 1,244 communities across the country need assistance.

The draft resolution also calls for all parties to avoid establishing military positions in civilian areas, including schools and hospitals. Sieges of populated areas should be lifted, it says.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote a joint letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging him to back the resolution.

Under the terms of the draft resolution, any ceasefire would not apply to the Islamic State group, or the Nusra Front - formerly al-Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says it must go further and exclude other groups "co-operating with them" and which have shelled Damascus.

This could include the two biggest rebel groups in Eastern Ghouta - Jaish al-Islam and its rival Faylaq al-Rahman, the latter of which had, in the past, fought alongside the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance headed by the Nusra Front.

Lavrov told reporters his country would be prepared to vote for the ceasefire under certain conditions, saying Russia had proposed "a formula which would make the ceasefire real".


More in World