Syria: Cameron talks tough at UN but Russia unlikely to budge
Prime Minister says inaction over Syrian bloodshed will leave ‘terrible stain’ on UN’s reputation
THE United Nations’ inaction over the crisis in Syria leaves a “terrible stain” on the organisation’s reputation, David Cameron said yesterday in a speech to world leaders gathered at the UN’s headquarters in New York.
But while the Prime Minister used tough language at the UN, Russia and China are very unlikely to budge from their opposition to any kind of outside intervention.
Citing a Save the Children report documenting the torture and murder of children by regime forces in Syria, Cameron quoted Wael, a 16-year-old from Deraa: “I have seen children slaughtered. If there was even one per cent of humanity left in the world, this would not happen.”
The Times called Mr Cameron’s speech “his most provocative attempt” to end the bloody impasse between regime and rebel forces that has claimed the lives of up to 20,000 Syrians.
Frustrated at repeated moves by Russia and China to block UN Security Council resolutions aiming to temper the conflict, Cameron condemned “those who have failed to stand up to these atrocities and in some cases aided and abetted Assad's reign of terror”.
According to The Independent, Cameron was in effect accusing the Russians not just of “stymieing” the Security Council, but of “assisting Assad's war on the rebels and the Syrian people”. Russia has supplied the Syrian army with a large stock of Soviet-era weaponry throughout much of the crisis, although it is now believed to have halted arms shipments.
The Prime Minister’s harsh words set the stage for a tense meeting today between Foreign Secretary William Hague and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. But there is no sign that Russia will stop blocking UN resolutions that advocate military intervention.
James Landale of the BBC says that Cameron’s words may have been “tough” but they offered “no new solution to the impasse”. Instead, the prime minister’s “cri de coeur [was] more practical.”
Urging world leaders to do more to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people, Cameron promised another £7m in humanitarian aid. This includes £3m for a UNICEF fund to help 500,000 refugees in Syria, more than half of whom are children, as winter approaches.
According to an activists’ group that compiles casualty figures in Syria, the prime minister’s speech came on the third bloodiest day of the conflict, with a death toll of 343.