The United Nations General Assembly voted in favour of a Canadian-drafted resolution on Friday to call for an immediate and complete end to hostilities in Syria, unhindered access to humanitarian aid, and an end to all sieges in the country, including in Aleppo.
Thirty-six countries abstained from the vote, while 122 voted in favour, and 13 opposed the non-binding resolution. This comes comes just days after China and Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire in Aleppo. And in advance of Friday’s vote, the Russian ambassador said it would be “unrealistic” to expect it to produce “some kind of dramatic U-turn” on the ground.
On Friday, the Syrian army launched an offensive in Aleppo to take back all rebel-held territory in the city’s east end, which has been without humanitarian aid, through airstrikes and ground fighting.
The UN human rights wing has warned that there are likely around 100,000 civilians in parts of eastern Aleppo controlled by armed opposition groups, while another 30,000 are believed to have escaped to government-controlled areas.
Canadian U.N. Ambassador Marc-Andre Blanchard told the Assembly prior to the vote that the resolution is a reminder that Syrian people should be the priority, Reuters reported.
“They are our priority and the world will not stay silent while they suffer without assistance,” he said.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said the vote was about standing up to Russia, an ally that’s been providing military assistance to the Syrian government, and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
But Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari criticized Canada for the resolution, saying Canada had violated Syria’s sovereignty by calling for the session without consulting the Syrian delegation, according to Sana News Agency.
Unilateral sanctions imposed on Syria “affect in the first place the Syrian citizens and impede the ability of the Syrian government to respond to the daily needs of Syrian citizens, particularly those who have been disadvantaged as a result of the terrorist war imposed on my country Syria,” he said, according to Reuters.
On Wednesday, Canada released a joint statement with France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the U.S. on the situation in Aleppo, in hopes of achieving a ceasefire on the ground.
“There’s children who are dying,” said Pam Goldsmith-Jones, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. “There’s innocent civilians who are being bombed in places that should be safe, and we’re very happy to be working with our allies to get them the medical care and the food that they need”
In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry accused the West of politicizing their approach to the crisis in a “last and desperate attempt to protect and save the terrorists and extremists ‘puppets’ who are losing battle.”
Al-Jaafari also slammed the Canadian government for imposing economic sanctions on the country earlier that he said hurt civilians, and for its role in the international coalition against ISIS, which he said violates Syrian sovereignty and destroys the country’s infrastructure, and kills innocent civilians, while doing little to eliminate the terrorist organization.
Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin echoed al-Jaafari’s stance on unilateral sanctions on Friday.
“You are slowly asphyxiating the population you ardently claim to care about,” he said, according to Reuters.
Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said on Thursday that Syria, Russia, various armed opposition groups, health directorates and others would have to cooperate and agree on conditions, guarantees, protection standards, and logistics for humanitarian assistance to be provided.
“If only one disagrees,” he said, “the whole thing fails.”