Amid 'Annihilation of Aleppo,' Vetoes and Walk-outs Leave Syrian Calm Dead on UN Floor

While Russia vetoed a French resolution to bring calm to Aleppo, France and other Western nations voted against a Russian resolution in 'one of the strangest spectacles' in Security Council.

A Syrian man mourns over the body of his father who was killed in air strikes on the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus, on October 5, 2016.
Sameer Al-Doumy, AFP

Rival resolutions on Syria backed by the West and Russia were defeated in the UN Security Council on Saturday, offering no relief to the besieged city of Aleppo and the key powers even more divided over a course of action in the war-ravaged country.

Russia vetoed a French-drafted resolution demanding an immediate halt to the bombing campaign that the Syrian government and Russia are carrying out against rebel-held districts in Aleppo. The rival Russian draft which made no mention of a bombing halt was rejected because it failed to get the minimum nine "yes" votes needed for approval by the 15-member council.

Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari speaks with Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin. October 8, 2016.
Eduardo Munoz, Reuters

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the current rotating council president, said before the votes that members were engaging in "one of the strangest spectacles" in the Security Council, because they were meeting knowing that neither resolution would be adopted.

"This waste of time is inadmissible," he said.

The votes reflected the deep divisions in the UN's most powerful body which is charged with ensuring international peace and security but has totally failed to take action to end the more than 5-year Syrian conflict which has killed over 300,000 people and displaced millions.

The French-backed resolution received 11 "yes" votes, two "no" votes from Russia and Venezuela, and abstentions from China and Angola. The Russian resolution received four "yes" votes, nine "no" votes, and two abstentions.

It was the fifth veto by Russia of a Western-backed resolution aimed at ending the Syrian conflict.

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault votes in favor of a draft resolution that demands an immediate end to air strikes and military flights over Syria's Aleppo city, during a meeting of Members of Security Council at the UN. October 8, 2016.
Eduardo Munoz, Reuters

When Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari started speaking, a number of ambassadors walked out, including the representatives of Britain, France, Ukraine and the United States.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who addressed the session before the vote on the French resolution, warned that the continued bombing of Aleppo was killing civilians and destroying hospitals and schools — "and has nothing to do with combatting terrorism," as Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and its close ally Russia contend.

"It is the annihilation of Aleppo," he said, declaring that the continued bombing will leave the city in ruins, a place where citizens will be left to their "executioners."

He compared Aleppo's likely fate to Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, Srebrenica during the Bosnian war and the Chechen capital Grozny which was pummeled by the Russian army in the mid-1990s.
Russia's Churkin said the demand for a bombing halt in Aleppo was "not fleshed out" and would affect the government-controlled western part of the city as well as the rebel-held east.

He said the French resolution's adoption would have been the first where the Security Council decided on a course of action for a permanent council member without prior agreement — meaning that Russia would have been required to stop all flights and bombing of Aleppo.

Churkin noted that activity in Aleppo had gone down on Friday and "we hope this is a trend that will continue."