UN Security Council urges monitoring of Aleppo evacuation
Council overcomes long-held divisions to adopt resolution to oversee safety of civilians
Rebel fighters and civilians wait to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo on Sunday. Photograph: Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters
The United Nations Security Council on Monday unanimously called for UN officials and others to observe the evacuation of people from the last rebel-held enclave in Aleppo and monitor the safety of civilians who remain in the Syrian city.
The 15-member council overcame long-held divisions that have pitted Syrian ally Russia and China against Western powers over the Syrian conflict to adopt a French-drafted resolution calling for UN officials and others “to carry out adequate, neutral monitoring and direct observation on evacuations”.
The recapture of Aleppo – Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s biggest victory in the nearly six-year-old war – has left thousands of people stuck in the last rebel bastion in the city’s east, amid accusations by the UN and western powers of atrocities against civilians by pro-government forces.
UN Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura announced on Monday he intended to convene peace talks in Geneva on February 8th.
Thousands of people were evacuated from eastern Aleppo on Monday. Among those who were rescued was Bana al-Abed, a seven-year-old girl whose tweets about life in east Aleppo under bombardment captured the attention of hundreds of thousands of people on social media, including prominent figures such as author JK Rowling.
Deter crimesSamantha Power
“Of course the Syrian government doesn’t want more monitors,” Ms Power said. “If you’re doing bad things you don’t want monitors around to watch you doing them.”
The UN said it had more than 100 people – mainly Syrian national staff – ready to monitor, alongside officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“We stand ready to scale up our presence and efforts across the entire city . . . This can be done immediately, but only if the parties live up to this resolution and their most basic legal obligations,” UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien said.
The security council reached consensus on a text on Sunday after several hours of negotiations. Russia had planned to veto the original French draft over concerns about sending UN monitors unprepared into “the ruins of eastern Aleppo”, Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.
Russia wanted UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to arrange security for UN monitors to enter eastern Aleppo “in co-ordination” with interested parties, meaning the Syrian government. The council agreed that such arrangements would be made “in consultation” with interested parties.
“We keep contact with our Syrian colleagues here all the time . . . they did not raise any serious objections to what we delivered,” Mr Churkin told reporters ahead of the vote.
“The last terrorists in some districts of the eastern part of Aleppo are evacuating their strongholds and Aleppo this evening will be clean,” he told reporters.
Russia, which has provided military backing to Assad’s troops, has vetoed six security council resolutions on Syria since the conflict started in 2011. China joined Moscow in vetoing five resolutions.
Monday’s resolution “demands all parties to provide these monitors with safe, immediate and unimpeded access”.
Unlike previous heated security council meetings on Syria, no members spoke in the council chamber after the vote.
Despite the government’s recapture of Aleppo, the fighting in Syria is by no means over, with large tracts of the country still under the control of insurgent and Islamist groups.
A crackdown by Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war, and Islamic State militants have used the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq. Half of Syria’s 22 million people have been uprooted and more than 400,000 killed.