This cartoon may seem harsh but it represents completely my feelings after watching the proceedings of the UN Security Council this morning.
The council “put to rest” two draft resolutions on the Syrian conflict. I can only describe it that way because the proceedings did not involve any proper consideration or discussion. Instead, representatives used the draft resolutions as a platform to make political statements and promote their own attitudes towards the Syrian conflict and the Syrian government.
In particular, supporters of the French/Spanish draft resolution advanced their arguments for “regime change.”
I couldn’t agree more with the current President of the Council, Ambassador Churkin, who described the fiasco as a complete waste of time. To present revolutions knowing they would not be accepted (even if only because of the veto power of the permanent members) is just political grandstanding. A complete diversion from what should be the council’s real work – attempting to reintroduce a cessation of hostilities and kick-start a political settlement. And that requires negotiation and compromise, not grandstanding.
Mind you, perhaps I should be patriotic and admit I saw something positive in the role of the New Zealand delegation. Although the New Zealand ambassador’s speech was nothing to be proud of I was pleased with the Council president’s comment that behind the scenes New Zealand had attempted to hammer out a compromise between the two resolutions which, if accepted, may have won approval.
It is hard to feel anything positive about the UN after watching this cynical political grandstanding. But the behind-the-scenes diplomacy, like that of New Zealand, attempting to drag a compromise resolution out of the geopolitical stands does hold out the possibility that the UN could play a more positive diplomatic role now that the US has postponed involvement in joint US-Russian negations for a ceasefire.
What were the draft resolutions about?
I have not seen the texts but news media have described the central feature of the French-Spanish draft as a ban on all flights over Aleppo. In effect, a unilateral ceasefire by the Syrians and Russians as there was no obligation the “rebels”/”terrorist’ to stop any activities.
The Russian draft basically supported the offer of the UN Syrian Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, to personally escort al-Qaeda-linked fighters out of Aleppo. This would have removed any need for aerial bombing of the area. Unfortunately, the “rebel”/”terrorists” would have seen this as a unilateral ceasefire on their part – although the plan involved them keeping their own personal weapons and moving to another part of Syria (or Turkey).
Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front) have formally rejected de Mistura’s offer. Presumably, they still do not yet see their situation as desperate enough for this – despite a string of defeats as the Syrian armed forces and their allies move into “rebel”/”terrorist”-held areas of Aleppo. (ironically, Ait activity by the Syrians and Russians has all but stopped at the moment as they put their efforts into the ground fighting.
So, the UN Security Council seems incapable of doing much on Syria at the moment. But it’s President denied that this means all diplomatic efforts have stopped. He said:
“No, no, it is just the end of another very strange UN Security Council meeting. No, this is not the end of diplomacy.”
I guess the ball is back in the court of bilateral negotiations between the Russians and US. Let’s hope the damage done by recent bruising exchanges at the UN and elsewhere do not prevent such negotiation recommencing.