UN slams Syrian shelling of Turkey

2012-10-05 10:02

New York - The UN Security Council overcame deep divisions to unanimously approve a statement condemning Syria's shelling of a Turkish town that killed five women and children "in the strongest terms".

Council members managed to bridge differences between the strong statement demanded by the United States and its Western supporters and backed by their Nato ally Turkey, and a weaker text pushed by Russia, Syria's most important ally, after negotiations that began late on Wednesday and continued through Thursday.

In the press statement, which needed approval from all 15 council members, the UN's most powerful body said the incident "highlighted the grave impact the crisis in Syria has on the security of its neighbours and on regional peace and stability".

It also extended condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Turkey.

The council demanded an immediate end to such violations of international law and called on the Syrian government "to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours". Russia's agreement that the Syrian shelling violated international law was a key concession by Moscow.

The original Western-backed draft, proposed by Azerbaijan, condemned the shelling "in the strongest terms" and called it a violation of international law. Proposed Russian amendments never mentioned any breaches of international law, so the inclusion in the final text was a concession by Moscow.

Earlier on Thursday, Syria's UN envoy said his government is not seeking any escalation of violence with Turkey and wants to maintain good neighbourly relations.

Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said the government hasn't apologized for the shelling from Syria because it is waiting for the outcome of an investigation on the source of the firing.

Dangerous new dimension

He read reporters a letter he delivered to the Security Council that sent Syria's "deepest condolences" to the families of the victims "and to the friendly and brotherly people of Turkey".

It urged Turkey and its other neighbours to "act wisely, rationally and responsibly" and to prevent cross-border infiltration of "terrorists and insurgents" and the smuggling of arms.

During Thursday's negotiations on the text when the outcome was still in doubt, US Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters "we think it's very important that the council speak clearly and swiftly to condemn this shelling".

"This sort of cross-border military activity is very destabilising and must be stopped," she said.

The border violence has added a dangerous new dimension to Syria's civil war, dragging Syria's neighbours deeper into a conflict that activists say has already killed 30 000 people since an uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began in March 2011.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm Thursday at the escalating border tensions and warned that the risks of regional conflict and the threat to international peace is increasing, the UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said.

The UN chief called on all parties "to abandon the use of violence, exercise maximum restraint and exert all efforts to move toward a political solution", he said.

Nesirky said Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy, has been in contact with Turkish and Syrian officials "in order to encourage an easing of tensions".

Syria's Ja'afari said the "Syrian government is keenly interested in maintaining good neighbourly relations with Turkey".

Suicide bombings

"The Syrian government is not seeking any escalation with any of its neighbours, including Turkey," he stressed.

But he said Syria wants to explain to the Turkish people that their government's policies supporting the opposition "are wrong and have been wrong since the beginning of the crisis".

Ja'afari said Turkey responded to the incident by launching artillery shells into Syria starting at 19:00 on Wednesday and stopping at midnight. Turkish troops then resumed artillery shelling on Thursday morning until 07:00, injuring two Syrian army officers, he said.

"Our forces practiced self-restraint and did not respond to this Turkish artillery shelling," Ja'afari said.

The Syrian ambassador said he delivered another letter to the Security Council seeking its condemnation of four suicide bombings in the country's largest city and commercial capital, Aleppo, which killed scores of innocent civilians and took place about the same time Wednesday as the cross-border shelling. He called them "suicide terrorist attacks."

Guatemala's UN Ambassador Gert Rosenthal, the current Security Council president who read the statement on Syria, said he is awaiting final approval from all council members on another press statement on the Aleppo attacks. The deadline for objections is 10:00 on Friday, he said.

Ja'afari urged the Turkish government to show "the same kind of sympathy" to the hundreds of innocent Syrian civilians killed in the suicide bombings as the Syrian government showed to the Turkish victims.

Some of the suicide bombers "came through the Turkish-Syrian border, so things should be balanced", he said.

  • Eterni80 - 2012-10-05 10:44

    United we stand - divided we fall...

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-05 10:51

    "This sort of cross-border military activity is very destabilising and must be stopped," she said. Americans are and have always spoken out of both sides of their mouth. This is so absurd and hypocritical, and is typical of imperialist logic. They still don't get that hypocrisy simply can't work as a policy and that double standards really just mean that they have no standards at all. The double standards and sheer hypocrisy are actually becoming quite farcical......

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-10-05 11:17

      Assad is indefencible no matter how much you jump up and down.

      dominic.goller.9 - 2012-10-05 13:32

      where were the americans last week when northern israel was hit by mortars fired from syria, israel didnt fire back.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-05 15:25

      Dominic, the Golan Heights are still techinically Syrian territory!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-10-05 18:06

      Fidel, And technically, you are an idiot !!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-05 19:13

      And so is your mother!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-10-05 20:28

      It's hard to take anything seriously from someone who believes Nelson Mandela is a phony, a lackey of the West, a modern-day Uncle Tom. Your exact words in the US/Mandela thread several weeks ago.

  • charmaine.mcdonald2 - 2012-10-05 12:39

    So much for Peace amongst Human Beings.

  • magomarele - 2012-10-05 12:47

    Assad's time is over, period. Doesn't matter how long he tries to hang on to power, he knows the he'll ultimately have to seek refuge somewhere in Zim or Cuba or Russia or China.

  • luyolo.mhlauli.9 - 2012-10-05 20:14

    What will Asaad gain by shooting at Turkey ? Nothing but a firm response from Turkey who is also a Nato member ....Now What would the rebels gain by shooting mortars at Turkey and getting Assad blamed for it ? The possibilities are endless and the rebels gaining control of Syria would be one of those possibilities. So using common sense that it is the rebels who fired mortar at Turkey but then again the US,Gulf States,Turkey and those rebels who have Al Qaeda elements are on the same side.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-10-05 20:27

      Conjecture from your arm-chair, laced with heavy anti-West prejudice. Therefore aLmost completely unreliable.

      luyolo.mhlauli.9 - 2012-10-05 20:54

      what will Assad gain ?

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