Russia and China yesterday vetoed a resolution at the United Nations (UN) Security Council that called for a ceasefire in Syria's north-western province of Idlib, revealing the deep divisions in the UN's most powerful body regarding the eight-year civil war.
The resolution to implement a ceasefire in hostilities between Syrian regime forces and opposition groups in Idlib province was backed by the vast majority of the 15 member council, and also demanded that counter-terrorism activities on some extremist groups must comply with international humanitarian law and ensure the safety of civilians.
Russia and China put forward their own rival resolution, which did not mention counter-terrorism activities and exempted military action against "terrorist groups" from the ceasefire, ensuring the continuation of fighting. That rival resolution failed to win the minimum nine votes needed in its favour, with only those two countries voting in favour, nine members – including the United States (US), Britain and France voting against – and four abstained.
Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia attempted to justify his country's veto of the ceasefire by telling the council that the aim of the original resolution was "to save the international terrorists who are entrenched in Idlib from their final defeat."
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The failure to implement the proposed ceasefire is bad news for the inhabitants of Idlib who have been subjected to an all-out air and land assault by the Syrian regime and its allies Russia and Iran since April this year. Hundreds of civilians have been killed as a result, entire villages and towns have been destroyed and schools and hospitals damaged beyond repair.
There have been a number of ceasefires over the past few months which have been broken by the regime in its desire to capture Idlib. The province is the last opposition-held stronghold in Syria, and is currently home to over three million inhabitants, many of whom were displaced from other parts of the country and who are now being pushed further north towards the Turkish border by the regime's assault.