Russia has accused the US of blocking a draft UN Security Council statement condemning the suicide bombings in the Syrian capital, which were among the deadliest in the two years of the armed conflict. The US blamed Russia in return.
The draft document submitted by Russia was aiming to express condolences to the victims of the Thursday attack on Damascus, which killed at least 53 people and wounded more than 250, and to condemn terrorism in any form. The anti-regime London-based Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll even higher, saying Friday that the coordinated bombings killed a total of 90 people, including some 60 in the most powerful blast in the Mazraa district.
But the adoption was blocked by the US and its allies, which wanted to add language condemning the Syrian President Bashar Assad, a move that Russia could not accept.
“Unfortunately, such an indispensable reaction by the Security Council to this terrorist attack has been once again blocked by the US delegation linking it with other questions,” the office of, Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s envoy to the UN, said.
“We consider unacceptable this search for justifications for terrorist actions. It is obvious that by doing so the US delegation encourages those who have been repeatedly targeting American interests, including US diplomatic missions,” the statement added.
The words are a thinly-veiled reference to the September 2012 attack on the US diplomatic mission in Libya’s Benghazi, in which America’s ambassador to the country and three other staff members were killed by Al-Qaeda-linked militants. Russia’s embassy in Damascus was among the buildings damaged by the suicide bombings, which Syria says were also carried out by Al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Spokeswoman for the US mission to the UN, Erin Peltin, said“We strongly condemn all indiscriminate terrorist attacks against civilians or against diplomatic facilities.
“We agreed with the Russian draft of a statement from the Security Council and only sought to add similar language on the regime’s brutal attacks against the Syrian people. Unfortunately, Russia refused to engage on a credible text.”
Opponents of the Syrian regime both among the rebel fighters and the international backers of the opposition have been pressuring Assad to step down. They accuse Russia of supporting him despite the thousands of lives the confrontation has claimed, saying most of the violence is his and his government’s fault.
“The problem is that the opposition saying every five minutes that they don’t want to talk to Bashar Assad,” told RT in an interview UN and Arab League special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.
The latest opposition demand for Assad to step down comes in a political statement from the Western-, Arab- and Turkish-backed Syrian National Coalition, which the body adopted after a late session on Thursday in Cairo.
The statement was passed after an angry debate, in which some members both Islamist and liberal camps of the 70-strong body criticized their chief Moaz Khatib for his earlier proposal of talks without setting a “clear goal”, as the critics said.
“We have adopted a political document that sets the parameters for any talks. The main addition to the draft is a clause about the necessity of Assad stepping step down,” said Abdelbasset Sida, a member of the coalition's 12-member politburo and one of Khatib’s critics.
Russia has on many occasions insisted that the personal fate of Assad is not Moscow’s concern. But Moscow insists that Assad staying in power or stepping down can only be discussed after the violence is stopped and a diplomatic solution to the conflict in found, and cannot be a precondition for negotiations. It offers itself as mediator for possible talks between Damascus and the opposition, including hosting such a meeting in Moscow.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem is due for talks in Moscow. Russia hopes that Khatib will also visit soon in search of a breakthrough.