UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Thursday aimed at tightening its crackdown on financing terrorist groups through illicit oil sales, trading in antiquities and paying ransom for hostages.
In a sign of the often divided council's unity on fighting the Islamic State and other al-Qaida-linked groups, the Russian-sponsored resolution was co-sponsored by many council members including the United States.
The resolution calls for sanctions on individuals and companies trading oil produced by the Islamic State, which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq, and other terrorist groups. It reaffirms that it is illegal to pay ransom to individuals and groups — such as the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra — that are already subject to U.N. sanctions, and that all countries are required to freeze such funds.
It requires all 193 U.N. member states to take "appropriate steps" to prevent the trade in antiquities and other items of historical, cultural, rare scientific and religious importance illegally removed from Syria. A similar ban already exists for antiquities from Iraq.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called the resolution "an important step in suppressing funding of terrorists."
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said the United States strongly supported the resolution but lamented that the council's "persistent failure" to take action against Syrian President Bashar Assad led to the rise of the group calling itself the Islamic State.
The Islamic State group is having a harder time generating new funds, Power said, and "today's resolution aims to make that effort more challenging."
Both Iraq and Syria welcomed adoption of the resolution.
"This is the most comprehensive resolution addressing the issue of terrorism," Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told reporters.
It is the latest in a series of Security Council resolutions targeting terror that go back to the days immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
The earliest resolution bans all countries from supporting or financing terrorism. Subsequent measures have ordered sanctions against terrorists and terrorist groups, demanded an end to ransom payments to such groups, and required nations to bar their citizens from traveling abroad to join terrorist organizations.
It reiterates concern that oilfields, refineries and other infrastructure such as dams and power plants controlled by the Islamic State, al-Nusra and other al-Qaida-linked groups "are generating a significant portion of the groups' income, alongside extortion, private foreign donations, kidnap ransoms and stolen money from the territory they control."
In November, a U.N. panel of experts monitoring al-Qaida sanctions said the Islamic State group received $35 million to $45 million in ransom payments over the past year — and that kidnapping for ransom continues to grow.
Many governments do pay ransom, but the U.S., Britain, Japan and others have refused, leading to the deaths of their hostages.
The resolution expresses the Security Council's "determination to prevent kidnapping and hostage-taking committed by terrorist groups and to secure the safe release of hostages without ransom payments or political concessions." This is similar to the language in a January 2014 resolution adopted by the council.
The resolution is drafted under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which deals with threats to peace because it imposes legally binding obligations on U.N. member states. It does not authorize military action to enforce the resolution's provisions.
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said in a speech on Oct. 23 that the Islamic State group was selling oil at substantially discounted prices to a variety of middlemen, including some from Turkey, who then transported it to be resold. He said it also appears that some oil was sold to Kurds in Iraq and then resold in Turkey, and that some was bought by the Syrian government.
The panel of experts recommended in November that the Security Council authorize the seizure of tanker trucks carrying oil from areas in Syria and Iraq controlled by the Islamic State group or al-Nusra, and deny aircraft permission to land or take off if they are coming from or going to territory held by the two terrorist groups. Neither recommendation was included in the resolution.
It expresses concern that aircraft, cars and trucks could be used to transfer oil, cash and other valuable items from these areas in violation of the asset freeze and arms embargo on terrorist groups.
Associated Press Writer Cara Anna contributed to this report from the United Nations