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Haley to UNSC: 'We Should All be Ashamed' for Russia, Assad Bombardment of Civilians During Ceasefire

A Syrian man carries his child while being evacuated from Zamlka in Syria's eastern Al-Ghouta province outside Damascus on March 25, 2018. (Anas Alkharboutli/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley lashed out at the UN Security Council during a Tuesday briefing on the humanitarian crisis in Syria for not being “responsible” and acting against the Assad regime and his allies Russia and Iran as they ignored a UN ceasefire.

“Siege. Starve. And surrender. This is the awful, unceasing rhythm of the Syrian war. As we meet here today, the third step – surrender – is taking place in eastern Ghouta. After years of enduring siege and starvation, residents are surrendering eastern Ghouta. The terrible irony of this moment must be stated and acknowledged: in the 30 days since the Security Council demanded a ceasefire, the bombardment of the people of eastern Ghouta has only increased. And now, at the end of the so-called ceasefire, eastern Ghouta has nearly fallen,” Haley said.

“History will not be kind when it judges the effectiveness of this Council in relieving the suffering of the Syrian people. Seventeen hundred Syrian civilians were killed in just the last month alone. Hospitals and ambulances are deliberately targeted with bombs and artillery. Schools are hit, like the school in eastern Ghouta that was bombed just last week, killing 15 children. Siege. Starve. And surrender,” she added.

About 1,700 civilians have been killed in the city over the past month; about 500 of the dead were women and children.

“I would ask my Security Council colleagues to consider whether we are wrong when we point to Russian and Iranian forces working alongside Assad as being responsible for this slaughter,” Haley said. “Russia voted for the so-called ‘ceasefire’ in Syria last month. More than that, Russia took its time painstakingly negotiating the resolution demanding the ceasefire.”

Haley noted that during those negotiations “we could see our Russian friends constantly leaving the room to confer with their Syrian counterparts.”

“The possibilities for what was going on are only two – either Russia was informing their Syrian colleagues about the content of the negotiations, or Russia was taking directions from the Syrian colleagues about the content of the negotiations. Either way, Russia cynically negotiated a ceasefire it instantly defied,” she said.

Saying they’re bombing “terrorists” as they target civilian neighborhoods is a “transparent excuse for the Russians and Assad to maintain their assault,” the ambassador added.

“…Their blatantly false narratives will not keep us from telling the world about Russia’s central role in bombing the Syrian people into submission.”

Haley told the council “we should all be ashamed” for the fact that, with the ceasefire ignored, Assad and his allies now control 80 percent of Ghouta.

“If we were upholding our responsibility as a Security Council, we would pass a resolution today recognizing the reality of what happened in eastern Ghouta. A responsible Security Council would condemn Syrian authorities, along with Russia and Iran, for launching a military offensive to seize eastern Ghouta the same day that we called for a ceasefire,” she said. “A responsible Security Council would condemn the Assad regime for deliberately blocking convoys of humanitarian aid during their military campaign and for removing medical items from convoys that attempted to reach eastern Ghouta. A responsible Security Council would recognize that the provision of humanitarian aid was never safe, unimpeded, or sustained, and that there was no lifting of sieges.”

“A responsible Security Council would express its outrage that at least 1,700 civilians were killed during a military campaign that we demanded to come to a halt. Seventeen hundred civilians who should have been spared in the ceasefire we demanded, but who died on our watch.”

But, Haley added, “we cannot take these actions because Russia will stop at nothing to use its permanent seat on this Council to shield its ally Bashar Al-Assad from even the faintest criticism.”

“And we cannot take these actions because instead of calling out how Assad, Russia, and Iran made a mockery of our calls for a ceasefire, too many members of this Council wanted to wait,” she said. “This is a travesty. This should be a day of shame for every member of this Council. And it should be a lesson about what happens when we focus on fleeting displays of unity, instead of on what’s right. For those who think otherwise, the people of eastern Ghouta deserve an explanation.”