Russia vetoes UN resolution to ‘save Aleppo’
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Russia vetoes UN resolution to ‘save Aleppo’

France had urged Security Council to take immediate action to prevent Syrian city from being destroyed by Moscow-backed bombing campaign

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (C) speaks at the United Nations Security Council before a vote on a French-Spanish resolution on Syria at the UN headquarters, October 8, 2016, in New York City.  (Dominik/AFP)
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (C) speaks at the United Nations Security Council before a vote on a French-Spanish resolution on Syria at the UN headquarters, October 8, 2016, in New York City. (Dominik/AFP)

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — Russia on Saturday vetoed a United Nations draft resolution demanding an end to the bombing of Syria’s war-battered city of Aleppo, despite an appeal from France to save the city from destruction.

It was the fifth time that Moscow used its veto to block UN action to end the five-year war in Syria, which has claimed 300,000 lives.

The draft text presented by France won 11 votes in favor in the 15-member Security Council, but there were two votes against — including Russia — and two abstentions, notably from veto-holder China.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault urged the council to take immediate action to save Aleppo from being destroyed by the Russia-backed Syrian bombing campaign.

As the vote got under way, the Syrian regime pressed its assault on rebel-held areas of Aleppo, where 125,000 people are living under siege and facing almost-daily heavy bombing.

The council “must demand immediate action in order to save Aleppo,” Ayrault said ahead of the vote.

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault gives a joint press during a foreign affairs ministers meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 19, 2016. (AFP/JOHN THYS)
French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault gives a joint press during a foreign affairs ministers meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 19, 2016. (AFP/JOHN THYS)

Russia presented its own rival draft text that urges a ceasefire but did not make any mention of halting the bombing campaign. It was rejected by other council members.

“What is at stake today is first and foremost the fate of Aleppo and its people,” Ayrault told the council.

“But it’s more than that — it’s the hope of establishing at last an end to a conflict for which we are all, all of us, paying the catastrophic consequences.”

In a message directed at Russia, Ayrault said any country that opposes the French measure will “give Bashar al-Assad the possibility of killing even more.”

Russia and Venezuela voted against the French text, while China and Angola abstained.

The Syrian and Russian bombing campaign has escalated since the Russian-backed Syrian army launched an offensive to retake the city on September 22.

A picture shows desruction as Syrian pro-government forces advance in Aleppo's Bustan al-Basha neighbourhood on October 6, 2016. (AFP PHOTO)
A picture shows desruction as Syrian pro-government forces advance in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Basha neighbourhood on October 6, 2016. (AFP PHOTO)

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that the mounting tensions between Washington and Moscow over the conflict had created a situation “more dangerous” than the Cold War.

US Secretary of State John Kerry made clear his anger at the Syrian army’s Russian-backed onslaught in the battleground second city, saying that its bombing of civilians could amount to a war crime.

Its ally Damascus has made significant advances in its renewed two-week-old offensive in Aleppo, seizing territory to the north and pushing back the front line in the city center which had remained largely static since the rebels captured eastern districts in 2012.

But it has come at a heavy human cost.

Since the regime offensive began a few days after a US- and Russian-brokered ceasefire collapsed, at least 290 people — mostly civilians — have been killed in rebel-held areas, 57 them children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

And 50 civilians including nine children have been killed in rebel shelling on regime-held areas of the city, according to the Britain-based monitoring group, which relies on a network of sources on the ground.

It said government forces were making further advances on Saturday ahead of the Security Council session.

“The battle is unfolding in the center, particularly in the Bustan al-Basha district where the army is advancing, in Sheikh Said in the south, and on the northern outskirts where the regime has taken the Uwaija neighborhood,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The monitor reported heavy air strikes on the rebel-held Fardos and Sukari neighborhoods. An AFP correspondent said the raids mostly hit combat zones in the city.

The German foreign minister said that tensions between Washington and Moscow were now worse than during the Cold War.

“It’s a fallacy to think that this is like the Cold War,” Steinmeier said in an interview published by Bild newspaper on Saturday.

“The current times are different and more dangerous.”

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