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Russia Challenges U.S.-British Hypocrisy on Syria in UN Security Council

Feb. 20, 2020 (EIRNS)—The UN Security Council met, yesterday, to discuss the situation in Syria, but, as is often the case, the meeting was also used as a staging ground by the U.S. and British representatives for attacks on Russia for its role in Syria. The original agenda for the session had been to get a political update, but, judging from the remarks of Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock was added at the last minute in order to provide the most dire picture possible of the humanitarian situation in Syria’s Idlib province, which could then be used by the Britain and the U.S. against Russia. Lowcock told the Council that hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the Russian-backed Syrian offensive are being squeezed into ever smaller areas near Turkey’s border “under horrendous conditions” in freezing temperatures that are killing babies and young children, reported Associated Press. He said that “the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe” in northwest Idlib province, which is the last major rebel stronghold, has “overwhelmed” efforts to provide aid. He said nearly 900,000 people have been displaced since Dec. 1, when the government offensive began, more than 500,000 of them children.

Joining the U.S. and U.K. in denouncing Russia was German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, who told the Council that the Astana process, comprising Russia, Iran and Turkey as guarantors, is no longer working and that therefore the UN must step in. “We have an immense responsibility that we face here as the United Nations, as the Security Council, to stop what is happening,” he said. “We must spare no effort.” Heusgen also urged Russia to stop supporting Syria. “If you tell the Syrians that there is no longer military support to the Syrian regime, they will have to stop the onslaught on their own population,” he said. Germany is one of the ten non-permanent members of the UNSC; Germany’s two-year term ends in 2020.

Britain’s Ambassador Karen Pierce said Russia and Syria need to stop “indiscriminate and inhumane attacks” in the northwest that are killing and injuring innocent civilians.

Nebenzia responded to these and other accusations, but it’s likely that his words fell on deaf ears. “Many countries give Russia advice on what to do and how to do,” he said. “For our part, we can also give a couple of recommendations.”  The first recommendation that he offered was that support to Hayat Tahrir al Sham, a proscribed terrorist group, should be stopped, including both political cover and weapons.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General released an audit that reported that the Pentagon had lost track of $715 million worth of weapons and other equipment that it had supplied to its “partners” in eastern Syria and can’t account for where it ended up. The IG audit reportedly found that lax standards for gear accountability left “thousands” of weapons and other gear “vulnerable to loss or theft.” The IG is apparently not saying that the missing gear ended up in the hands of terrorists, but this is clearly not to be excluded, as it has been true for many years.

Nebenzia went on to accuse certain other representatives on the Security Council of hypocrisy with regard to humanitarian suffering in Syria. “We have heard all of today’s rhetoric on many occasions this month,” Nebenzia went on. “You are playing the card of civilian suffering and long-term truce every time the terrorists you cherish are in danger.” While Russia is accused of bombing civilians, Nebenzia pointed out, nobody takes note of the destruction caused in Raqqa in Syria or Mosul in Iraq, and other cities “liberated” by the U.S.-led coalition. “Someone has said recently that international humanitarian law applies to all types of conflicts,” he said a bit later. “We therefore ask to put pressure on terrorists in Idlib and make them stop using civilians as human shields, stop the execution and torture of those who go to [the] street to oppose the invasion of terrorists, and give resident[s] access to humanitarian exit corridors.”

Nebenzia also point out that Western sanctions are impeding the reconstruction of Syria and that the U.S. military continues to occupy Syrian oil fields, which could otherwise also contribute to the reconstruction of the war-torn nation. “If some of our colleagues are deeply concerned about protecting oil fields from militants, we could advise them to sign an intergovernmental agreement with Damascus,” he said. “Otherwise, [their] presence in Syria is illegal. As is the case in other areas—‘Al-Tanf,’ where the issue of the Ruqban camp is still pending, and in Hasakah, where refugees are suffering in the Al-Howl camp.”

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