The delegations of Russia and China have vetoed a United Nations resolution to apply sanctions on Syrian government over the use of chemical weapons during the almost six-year war in the country.
The resolution, which was supported by dozens of states, makes clear the wide divisions that are still latent between Russia and the Trump administration, even when both countries promised to improve ties.
Britain and France proposed it some months ago and it has been the seventh Security Council resolution that the Russian delegation has vetoed in support of President Bashar al-Assad since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
The American ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, accused Russia and China of putting “their friends in the Assad regime ahead of our global security”. On the other hand, Vladimir Putin has reinforced his opposition, adding that penalties enforced by the Security Council will only obstruct Geneva’s diplomatic attempts to end hostilities in Syria.
The evacuation of civilians and medical staff members from the besieged neighborhoods of the Syrian city of Aleppo has been delayed due to the last airstrikes. Thousands had been expecting to leave after a deal announced at the United Nations.
As reported in the agreement announced last Tuesday by Turkey, Russia and Syrian rebels, the last remaining fighters had to evacuate to rebel-held territory, and civilians had the chance to join them or to move to government-held areas. This meant the whole city of Aleppo would be now in the hands of forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
The evacuation plan has been arranged after two weeks of quick advances by the Syrian Army and its allies, who drove insurgents into an increasingly tinier part of eastern Aleppo with the help of heavy airstrikes.
However, due to the last shelling, buses that were supposed to evacuate some of the last civilians and activists left the city empty after waiting for several hours. The Russian Defense Ministry blamed the rebels for blocking the evacuation, affirming that they had “resumed the hostilities” at dawn.
All in all, there was no international monitoring and thus troubles while implementing the deal were not precisely surprising. United Nations officials stated the Syrian government had refused their reiterated demands to observe the process and demonstrated the lack of effective mechanisms to enforce the agreement.
The air raid on Saturday, which hit a funeral with thousands of mourners in Yemen’s rebel-held capital, Sana’a, killed 140 and left 525 people wounded. It was one of the deadliest attacks of the country’s civil war since the Saudi-led coalition started a campaign of airstrikes against the Houthi-Saleh alliance in March 2015.
The conflict in the country broke out in 2014 when rebels known as the Houthis took the capital by force and sent the government into exile. The Houthis are allied with army units loyal to a former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and they have been struggling for control of the country against groups that are loyal to the current president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is supported by Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies.
The airstrikes on Saturday came after a period of escalation since August, when the last round of peace talks definitely broke down. The last attack seems to impede any return to talks aimed at ending the conflict, while stimulating support in northern Yemen for military escalation against Saudi Arabia. Instability and uncertainty rule the country at the moment.
The attack has been condemned by the UN, the European Union and the United States. The US, like the UK and other European countries, supplies arms to Saudi Arabia and practical military advice. After the last attack’s repercussion, the White House issued a statement affirming that it had begun an “immediate review” of its support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen “to better align with U.S. principles, values and interests”.
Although Syrian civil war had been definitely one of the most decisive issues to discuss in the context of the G20 summit in China, it seemed that the talks between USA and Russia to start a ceasefire did not have the expected development since there were no clear solutions found.
However, in the following days after the Hangzhou summit, the ceasefire became a reality when these two countries affirmed that they had reached an agreement. This means that the new deal would lead to a ceasefire and facilitate a broader military cooperation with the aim of destroying the Islamic State.
There are still significant obstacles in the way of carrying out this last agreement since hundreds of factions are fighting today in Syria and achieving a total cooperation is truly laborious. Nevertheless, the ceasefire is set to begin at sundown on Monday. As the Pentagon announced, a “cessation of hostilities” would have to be held for seven days before the broader military cooperation between USA and Russia would go into effect.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to comply with the new deal and supports the initiative accorded by both countries.
The diplomats meeting in Munich agreed Friday to a cease fire in Syria’s long-running civil war and instead focus all efforts in bringing humanitarian aid to the country and millions of displaced people. The Secretary of State of the US, John Kerry, announced after meeting with the Russian Secretary and other diplomats that their aim was for the fire to cease within a week, at least from their respective sides. However, a complete cease fire seems almost impossible, as it would depend on hundreds of rebel groups also deciding to stop fighting.
This announcement signifies a huge development in a war that has already killed more than 250,000 civilians and has created the world’s worst refugee crisis since the Holocaust.