(CNSNews.com) – An emergency U.N. Security Council meeting during a week described by a special envoy for Syria as one of the worst in a more than five-year conflict ended with no action Sunday, but did see harsh criticism of Russia in particular by the U.S., British and French ambassadors, who also walked out as the Syrian ambassador began to speak.
Particularly strong words came from U.S. ambassador Samantha Power, who accused Russia of “barbarism,” and her British counterpart, Matthew Rycroft, who said Russia’s failure to change direction would “only confirm its status as an international pariah.”
Since a U.S./Russia-negotiated ceasefire collapsed, the Russian-backed Assad regime escalated a deadly air offensive against rebel-held eastern Aleppo, where more a quarter of a million civilians are besieged by army forces.
“Instead of pursuing peace, Russia and Assad make war,” said Power. “Instead of helping get life-saving aid to civilians, Russia and Assad are bombing the humanitarian convoys, hospitals, and first responders who are trying desperately to keep people alive.”
As for Russia’s claims to be fighting terrorists, Power said, “Nobody has to convince the United States of America of the danger posed by terrorists. Our citizens are often priority targets all around the world. But when Russia is espousing fiction, we have to call that out. What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counterterrorism; it is barbarism.”
Quoting a first responder in Aleppo as saying that the air assault of recent days felt “like the end of the world,” Powers declared that “it is apocalyptic what is being done to eastern Aleppo.”
She challenged the Security Council “at the very least [to] have the courage to say who is responsible for this – and, in a single voice, tell Russia to stop.”
Rycroft said there was no question that ISIS and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra were terrorists, yet the Assad regime and its allies have killed far more civilians in Syria than have those two terrorist groups put together.
“So every time we rightly condemn Daesh [ISIS] and al-Nusra terrorism in Syria, let us also condemn the absolute terror being inflicted on the Syrian people by the Assad regime and by Russia, as they continue to bomb Syrian civilians, day and night.”
Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin, echoing a line his government has been putting forward for months, said Russia was fighting terrorists in Syria, while the U.S.-led coalition was failing to separate the rebels its support from terrorist groups.
Moreover, “tactical tricks” by the U.S. were merely allowing terrorists to regroup and get reinforcements, he charged.
Briefing the council, U.N. Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura appealed to members to work to restore the ceasefire.
“The past week has been one of the worst ones in Syria during the near six years of this devastating conflict,” he said. Aleppo was being reduced to rubble in the face of a “remarkable new intensity” in airstrikes, described the scale and type of bombing as “unprecedented.”
As Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari was invited to address the council, Power, Rycroft and French Ambassador Francois Delattre walked out of the chamber.
Ja’afari derided the three for their realization that Syrian government’s aim is to recapture Aleppo, saying they sounded as though they had rediscovered the wheel. He reiterated that the aim was to recover the entire city.
He also accused the British ambassador, who had earlier described Syria as broken, of “wishful thinking.”
“Syria has never been broken,” Ja’afari said.