Security Council

UN Security Council holds emergency Syria meeting as airstrikes ravage Aleppo

Syrians inspect damage after a government airstrike in Aleppo

Syrians inspect damage after a government airstrike in Aleppo  (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

The UN Security Council held a closed-door emergency meeting on Syria Friday, one day after U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura warned that the lives of some 275,000 people were hanging in the balance as the Russian and Syrian government air bombardment of Aleppo continued unabated.

“In maximum two months, two-and-a-half months, the city of eastern Aleppo may be totally destroyed,” de Mistura said. The Kremlin said Russian fighter jets were “assisting Syria’s armed forces in the fight against terrorism.” De Mistura, who was briefing the Security Council via video link in Geneva, implored Russia to halt its airstrikes to end the terrible suffering of Aleppo’s residents and allow a few hundred jihadi fighters holed up in the city to leave. “If you decide to leave with dignity… I am personally ready to physically accompany you,” de Mistura said, urging former Al-Nusra Front fighters in eastern Aleppo to leave in a deal that would end the brutal air campaign against the city and its residents.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Russia’s Channel One news that Moscow was “ready to urge” the Syrian government to agree to de Mistura’s proposal to allow the Al-Nusra fighters out of eastern Aleppo in exchange for a temporary cessation of hostilities.

On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States ended talks with Moscow on Syria over Russia’s stepped up air campaign in Aleppo. Moscow and Washington accused each other of breaking a fragile ceasefire last month. Russia has since deployed advanced S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air-missiles to Syria. And Thursday, a Russian defense ministry spokesman warned that any U.S. aircraft attempting to launch strikes may be shot down by the Russia air defenses.

Security Council members were discussing a French-drafted resolution that demands a ceasefire in Aleppo. Fox News saw an initial draft of the resolution which called for the suspension of all aerial military activity over the war-torn city. The measure also called for the delivery of humanitarian aid and the establishment of a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire.

Russia’s Ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, said earlier this week that the resolution in its current form “has no chance of working,” essentially threatening to veto it. Moscow’s deployment of advanced air defenses in Syria is viewed by Western diplomats as a move that would deter any attempt by the West to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, a long-standing appeal by Syria’s opposition.

The UN Security Council scheduled to vote on the resolution at 3pm Saturday. Churkin, said a short time ago outside the Security Council that “the French draft contains elements that we think are harmful,” hinting of Moscow’s intention to veto.