The Latest: UN takes no action after arguments over Aleppo

AP News
Posted: Sep 25, 2016 3:51 PM
The Latest: UN takes no action after arguments over Aleppo

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):

10:30 p.m.

An emergency session of the U.N. Security Council on Syria has ended with no action taken as Russia clashed openly with representatives from the United States, Britain and France.

All three Western powers heaped blame on Moscow Sunday for supporting the offensive by its close ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, which has been the deadliest of the 5 1/2-year war. And when Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari was called to speak, all three ambassadors walked out of the council chamber in protest.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin blamed Syria's rebels for sabotaging the Sept. 9 cease-fire agreement by shoring up its forces. And he accused the Western coalition of failing to separate the moderate forces it backs from "terrorist" groups including the al-Qaida-linked Fatah Sham Front.

"Bringing a peace is almost an impossible task now," Churkin said.

But he told the council that Russia still wants a cease-fire along with renewed negotiations between the Syrian parties.

France's U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said immediate implementation of the cease-fire agreement, hammered out by the U.S. and Russia, "is our only hope."


10:15 p.m.

The ambassadors of the United States, Britain and France walked out of the U.N. Security Council when Syria's ambassador was called to speak at an emergency meeting they called for in order to demand a halt to the Syrian offensive in Aleppo.

The walkout on Sunday by U.S. envoy Samantha Power, Britain's Matthew Rycroft and France's Francois Delattre demonstrated Western anger and frustration at Syrian President Bashar Assad's decision to try to take Aleppo after U.S.-Russian talks failed to revive a cease-fire.

In separate speeches to the council before the walkout, the three countries accused Russia of backing the Syrian offensive while talking about a cessation of hostilities.

Power said the U.S. knows "that Russia has consistently said one thing, and done the opposite."

But she said the U.S. also believes it must do "everything in our power to find a way to halt the violence" and will "continue to look for any way possible to restore the cessation of hostilities."


9:15 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is "appalled" by the current spike in violence around the contested Syrian city of Aleppo.

As an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council continued on Sunday, Ban said the city is facing "the most sustained and intense bombardment since the start of the Syrian conflict."

He focused in particular on reports of the use of so-called "bunker-busting bombs" that are designed to target underground structures.

Ban said, "Let us remember: the fighting has forced hospitals and schools to operate in basements. These bombs are not busting bunkers; they are demolishing ordinary people looking for any last refuge of safety."

Ban urged all parties involved to "work harder for an end to the nightmare."


8 p.m.

The International Committee for the Red Cross says it has delivered food, medical supplies, and other supplies to a set of four besieged Syrian towns that have been inaccessible to aid organizations in nearly six months.

The organization said Sunday it was reaching 60,000 residents trapped in the towns of Madaya, Zabadani, Foua, and Kafraya.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent, which is managing the convoys jointly with the U.N. and the ICRC, says 53 trucks have reached Madaya and Zabadani, besieged by pro-government forces, and 18 trucks have reached Kafraya and Foua, which are besieged by rebels.

Government forces and rebels have so far blocked the U.N. from establishing regular aid access to besieged areas in Syria. The U.N. estimates 600,000 Syrians are trapped in different sieges.


6:30 p.m.

Syrian activists say several civilians have been killed in renewed airstrikes on opposition areas in the contested city of Aleppo.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 23 people have been killed in presumed government or Russian airstrikes on various neighborhoods in rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Sunday.

Ibrahim Alhaj of the Syrian Civil Defense search and rescue operation says the group has documented the deaths of 43 people so far.

Hospitals in the city are reporting that they are overwhelmed with casualties.

Mohammad Zein Khandaqani, a member of the Medical Council, which oversees medical affairs in the opposition areas, says he expects many of the most badly wounded will die from insufficient treatment and facilities.

"I've never seen so many people dying in once place," he said from a hospital in the city.


6:20 p.m.

A top U.N. envoy is accusing Syria at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council of unleashing "unprecedented military violence" against civilians in Aleppo.

Staffan de Mistura said Syria's declaration of a military offensive to retake rebel-held eastern Aleppo has led to one of the worst weeks of the 5 1/2-year war with dozens of airstrikes against residential areas and buildings causing scores of civilian deaths.

He said the offensive targeting civilians with sophisticated weapons including incendiary devices may amount to war crimes.

De Mistura said U.S.-Russian talks on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly's ministerial meeting failed to reinvigorate the Sept. 9 cessation of hostilities, and the offensive has left two million people in Aleppo without water.

He urged an immediate cessation of hostilities, delivery of humanitarian aid, and evacuation of urgent medical cases.


6 p.m.

Russia's Foreign Ministry is taking a slap at Boris Johnson for his suggestion that Russia has committed war crimes in Syria.

Following the British Foreign Minister's comments, Russian ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova quickly responded on Facebook Sunday, saying:

"The foreign minister of Great Britain Boris Johnson said in a broadcast of the BBC that Russia is guilty of protracting civil war in Syria and, possibly, of committing war crimes in the form of air attacks on convoys with humanitarian aid. All this is right except for two words: Instead of 'Russia' it needs to be 'Great Britain' and instead of 'Syria,' 'Iraq.'"


5:45 p.m.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says Russia should be investigated for war crimes following an attack on a Syrian aid convoy that claimed 20 lives.

Johnson said Sunday that Russian air power may have deliberately targeted the civilian convoy on Sept. 19. Russia denies involvement and instead suggests Syrian rebels or a U.S. drone were responsible.

Johnson said the West had been "too impotent in its response" to aggression by Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Russian backers during Syria's civil war, now in its sixth year.

He said Russia is "guilty of protracting this war, of making it far more hideous. And yes ... we should be looking at whether or not that targeting is done in the knowledge that those are wholly innocent civilian targets. That is a war crime."


5:30 P.M.

France's foreign minister says Russia and Iran will be guilty of war crimes if they don't pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop escalating violence.

Jean-Marc Ayrault said an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting Sunday is a "moment of truth" for the U.N.

He said Assad's regime "has clearly made the choice of a military escalation. I am calling on Russia and Iran to pull themselves together and show responsibility, by putting a stop to this strategy. ... If not, Russia and Iran will be accomplices in war crimes committed in Aleppo."

The U.S, Britain, and France sought Sunday's meeting, as pro-government forces continued their intense bombardment of Aleppo. They are widely believed to be accompanied by Russian air strikes.


3 p.m.

A monitoring group says Syrian rebels have retaken an area in Aleppo that fell to government forces the day before, extending a punishing stalemate in the contested northern city.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which maintains a network of local contacts, says rebels seized Handarat, a largely uninhabited Palestinian refugee camp, early Sunday.

The area is near Castello Road, a vital supply route to the city's besieged rebel-held areas. Government forces seized the Castello Road earlier this year, besieging rebel-held districts where some 250,000 people reside.

Yasser al-Yousef, a spokesman for the Nour el-Din al-Zinki rebel faction, says rebels seized Handarat late Saturday.

The Observatory says 213 civilians have been killed by airstrikes and shelling on rebel-held areas in and around Aleppo since a cease-fire expired Monday.