8623rd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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19-Sep-2019 01:31:11
Security Council rejects two draft resolutions on situation in Syria amid divisions over Idlib Truce and armed groups at the 8623rd meeting.

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The Security Council failed to adopt two draft resolutions on the situation in Syria today — one tabled by Belgium, Germany and Kuwait; the other by China and the Russian Federation — amid heated debate on their content and concern over the fate of civilians in Idlib Governorate.

The draft proposed by co-sponsors Belgium, Germany and Kuwait — which would have called on all parties to immediately cease hostilities to avoid a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Idlib Governorate, beginning at noon Damascus time on 21 September — received 12 affirmative votes, 2 negative votes (China, Russian Federation) and 1 abstention (Equatorial Guinea).

That draft also would have demanded that Member States ensure that all measures taken to counter terrorism comply with international law, and stress that such operations do not absolve parties to armed conflicts from their obligations under international humanitarian law. It would have urged all parties to apply the principles of distinction and proportionality, as well as take all feasible precautions to avoid and minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects. It would have further requested the Secretary-General to immediately report any violations of international humanitarian law.

The draft proposed by China and the Russian Federation, which holds the Council presidency for September, was defeated by 9 votes against (Belgium, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Kuwait, Peru, Poland, United Kingdom, United States) to 2 votes in favour (China, Russian Federation), with 4 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, South Africa).

By its terms, the Council would have decided that all parties maintain the cessation of hostilities as of 31 August to avoid a further deterioration of humanitarian conditions in Idlib. It also would have reaffirmed that the cessation of hostilities shall not apply to military operations against individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Council-designated terrorist groups.

“The Council cannot stay silent and must act,” Germany’s representative said as he introduced the first draft. Describing it as a balanced text, he said it focused purely on the humanitarian situation while also acknowledging that counter-terrorism efforts must be undertaken in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Presenting the second draft, the Russian Federation’s delegate said it took an exclusively humanitarian approach to the issue, avoiding politicized language while also aiming to continue the 31 August ceasefire. He clarified that air strikes by Syria and the Russian Federation are only being carried out against terrorists and avoid placing civilians at risk. He reminded the Council that armed combat against terrorists in Syria is almost over and that humanitarian issues must not be used for alternative aims.

During exhaustive debate, Syria’s representative said it was a “surreal farce” that Western countries had drafted a biased and political rather than humanitarian draft resolution. They say that combating terrorism requires respect for international humanitarian law, but, yet, are silent about dealing with those States that produce terrorism, he said, adding that history would remember today’s meeting as an attempt to embarrass the Russian Federation during its presidency of the Council. The three co-sponsors did not coordinate with Syria’s delegation on their text, and that agreements concluded in Astana and Sochi underscored the Syria’s right to fight terrorism on its territory.

Also speaking were the representatives of the United States, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, Peru, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Kuwait, Belgium, China, Poland, Indonesia and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting, which began at 11:47 a.m. and ended at 1:17 p.m., took place immediately after another that addressed the humanitarian situation in Syria.

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