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Rival Syrian Cease-Fire Resolutions Fail At UN, Dashing Idlib Peace Hopes

A Syrian man inspects the damage in the town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib Province in August.
A Syrian man inspects the damage in the town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib Province in August.

Two rival resolutions for a cease-fire in Syria's Idlib Province were defeated in the United Nations Security Council, as member states failed to end what one humanitarian official called an "alarming" situation in the war-ravaged region.

Russia and China on September 19 vetoed a Western-led resolution backed by 12 of the 15 member states that called for a cease-fire in Syria's northwestern province.

It was the 13th time Russia has cast a veto of a UN resolution to block action directed at its ally, Syria, since the country's civil war began in 2011.

Germany, Belgium, and Kuwait submitted the resolution and urged Russia not to veto what they called a "purely humanitarian" measure.

It called for all parties to end hostilities "to avoid a further deterioration of the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Idlib Governorate, beginning at noon Damascus time on 21 September."

The key issue was the demand that all counterterrorism operations comply with international humanitarian and human rights law and ensure the protection of civilians.

Russia rejected the text after it failed in its effort to include an exception to the cease-fire for "antiterrorist operations" and allow military action against "terrorist groups."

Western states contended that wording would be open to too much interpretation and might not have stopped the bombing of civilians.

"Bombing hospitals, schools, and civilian facilities is no help in the fight against terrorism," said Marc Pecsteen, the Belgian ambassador to the UN.

A separate rival resolution drafted by Russia and China was voted upon but failed to receive the required nine votes.

Russia and China voted yes, while nine council members -- including the United States, Britain, and France, which have veto power -- voted no. Four countries abstained: Indonesia, South Africa, Ivory Coast, and Equatorial Guinea.

Russia's UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, denounced what he called "the surge of humanitarian activism" by other members of the Security Council whenever the Syrian regime has recaptured territory.

"The [Western] resolution was flawed from the outset," he said, accusing its supporters of deliberately splitting the council ahead of the annual UN General Assembly, which begins next week.

Idlib is dominated by the Al-Qaeda-linked militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

President Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime and its Russian ally have since late April ramped up deadly air strikes and rocket fire on the militant stronghold, and fighters have clashed on its edges.

According to the UN, since the start of hostilities in northwest Syria in April, some 400,000 people have been displaced in the fighting, causing a humanitarian disaster.

Russia and Iran have provided crucial support for Assad during the long, bloody civil war, while the United States and Turkey have backed differing rebel groups fighting the central government.

Islamic State and other extremist groups also entered the civil war and were opposed by all other sides.

More than 400,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced since the war began in March 2011 after a crackdown on anti-Assad protests.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and dpa
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