UN General Assembly briefing on humanitarian situation

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On October 20 a plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly was held in New York for a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria. The session, which was described as informal, was called in response to the request by Canada and 70 other member states for the General Assembly to take up the matter.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and John Ging, Director of the Operational Division of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs addressed the session first. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion was then the first representative of a member state to take the floor. He was followed by the representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic, the U.S., Russia, Iran and several other countries.

In his opening remarks, Ban Ki-moon set the stage for the debate to take up the aim of justifying further foreign aggression against Syria. Ban conjured up images of situations where the UN’s alleged “failure to act” allowed genocide to be committed. Ban said people across the world were asking how any further destruction could be tolerated, if the UN had learned anything from Srebrenica and Rwanda, and when the international community would unite to stop the carnage. He called for a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria, for “extremists” to be “isolated” and said the Syrian Government must agree to ground its air force over Aleppo. This would require “robust and credible monitoring and compliance mechanisms,” he added, presumably to be enforced by the U.S. He did not call for the grounding of the U.S. or other air forces bombing Syrians from Syrian airspace in flagrant violation of the UN Charter.

Ban also suggested war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed in Syria and concluded by calling for “all of you to cooperate and fulfill your collective responsibility to protect.”

Showing the full-court press mounted by Canada to increase pressure for a no-fly zone, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement just as the meeting was taking place. He too called for the General Assembly to “act” in the name of a “collective responsibility to protect.”

“I encourage other countries to help generate forward momentum on Syria, given UN members have a collective responsibility to protect the world’s vulnerable and weak when others cannot or will not,” he said. Such talk is truly criminal as invoking the “responsibility to protect” is directly aimed at negating the sovereignty and right to self-determination of Syria against those forces whose sole aim is regime change and who are fanning the flames of war inside the country. What kind of momentum is Trudeau trying to generate in Syria? Canada is one of the parties responsible for having armed and supported forces inside Syria. It conducted bombings inside Syria until February 2016 and continues to provide logistical assistance and perform other duties as part of the U.S. bombing campaign. Canada has taken no responsibility for inciting war inside Syria with the aim of regime change but now has the audacity to talk about the need for the UN to “act.”

“I am very proud that our mission at the United Nations, spearheaded by Ambassador Marc-André Blanchard, is leading the charge to protect the many victims of this tragic conflict,” Trudeau added, presenting Canada as some sort of a white knight in shining armour.

141025-EdmontonAntiWar-008crTrudeau’s comments show clearly that the aim of Canada’s initiative in calling the meeting was not to address any problem facing humanity, but rather to put pressure on Security Council members to submit to the push for a no-fly zone. “With the support of 70 other UN countries, Canada is applying as much diplomatic pressure as possible on the UN Security Council to break their impasse on Syria,” he said. Echoing the pro-war hysteria seen around Libya in 2011 and countless times before about the need to “do something,” Foreign Minister Dion said in an interview prior to the meeting “I think it will add to the pressure for action. Because you will have many countries saying the same thing, accentuating the sense that inaction is unacceptable.”

In his speech Dion pushed for what appears to be Plan A, an appeal for unity on the Security Council to pass “a strong resolution.” He called the Council’s “inability to carry out its responsibilities… troubling.” “We must stop the attempts to block its efforts,” he said.

Dion claimed that the General Assembly “[has] the heavy responsibility of, collectively, ensuring that international humanitarian law is respected in the Syrian crisis. All of us believe in this institution – in the UN – and in its ability to deliver humanitarian aid. Canada is ready to play its part.” This was then used to declare hypocritically, “We cannot allow the most fundamental rules of our UN system, the rules on which we all base ourselves and for which we are responsible, to be disregarded.” In other words, Canada claims to uphold international humanitarian law as the fundamental rule in order to undermine the UN Charter and founding principles which the U.S. and its war coalition violate daily in Syria. This is a cynical attempt to invoke humanitarian principles to justify military aggression and war.

Dion also referred to Canada’s Plan B, a proposal for the General Assembly to attack its own Charter. “We must also be ready to use the tools at our disposal to apply pressure and counter attempts at blocking efforts, including an emergency special session of the UN General Assembly,” he said.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power made the same assertion as part of her attempt to demonize the governments of Russia and Syria. Power referred to Russia and “the Syrian regime” trampling on the “fundamental principles” the UN was created to uphold and said that “we” are committed to defending them.

Dr. Bashar al-Ja'afari, Syria’s Permanent representative to the United Nations

Dr. Bashar al-Ja’afari, Syria’s Permanent representative to the United Nations

The UN Ambassador from the Syrian Arab Republic Bashar Jaafari condemned violations of his country’s sovereignty by those countries such as the U.S., Canada, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others deploying military forces inside Syria without permission. He also discussed the unilateral pause in bombing announced by Syria and Russia to evacuate civilians and fighters from the city of Aleppo via humanitarian corridors.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin noted the total absence of any reference by Secretary-General Ban and Canada to ISIL or other terrorist groups or to terrorism being an issue in Syria. “What is happening in this room makes us really puzzled. How come that when speaking about the situation in Syria, about the toughest humanitarian situation there, the UN Secretary-General makes no mention about the terrorist organizations whatsoever – neither Jebhat al-Nusra nor the Islamic State? Is tackling terrorism not one of the main goals of the United Nations?” Churkin said.

Source: TML Weekly, October 22, 2016, No. 41

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Filed under Canada, West Asia (Middle East)

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