UN fails to agree on response to fighting in southwest Syria

The Security Council failed to agree Thursday on any response to the escalating fighting and deteriorating situation in southwest Syria during emergency closed-door consultations, reflecting the deep divisions in the U.N.'s most powerful body during the seven-year conflict.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, whose country is taking part in air strikes against rebel-held areas in the southwest, told reporters after the session that there was no press statement "because they are focusing on cessation of hostilities and we are focusing on fighting terrorists."

The escalation in Daraa, one of Syria's last major rebel strongholds near Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, began on June 19 and has forced an estimated 330,000 people to flee their homes. Opposition activists say scores of civilians have been killed.

Nebenzia said Russia agrees with other council members on the need for humanitarian access, but questioned how many civilians are in need of assistance.

Sweden's U.N. Ambassador Olof Skoog, the current council president, had called the emergency consultations with Kuwait, the Arab representative on the council, hoping to get the 15 members to agree on a statement calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and unrestricted access to deliver humanitarian aid.

Skoog said all members expressed concern about the humanitarian situation and "a broad majority of countries" believe it's urgent to implement a resolution adopted in February that calls for a cease-fire and humanitarian access.

"I think what may differ a little bit is the emphasis right now among some members who are heavily involved on the ground," he told reporters after the meeting.

Skoog said he definitely expects the council to follow up and possibly hold an open meeting on what he called the "very dramatic and deteriorating situation."

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "is gravely concerned by the resumption of the military offensive in southwest Syria and its continued devastating impact on civilians."

Guterres again appeals for "an immediate suspension of the hostilities and the resumption of negotiations," stressing that "an estimated 750,000 lives are in danger," Dujarric said.