Turkey: We are the victim so we have to keep shelling Syria
By EDITH M. LEDERER
Feb 19, 2016 -- 7:12 PM ET
(UNITED NATIONS) France immediately rejected Russia's proposed U.N. resolution Friday demanding an immediate halt to cross-border shelling and foreign ground intervention in Syria, warning that "a dangerous military escalation" could spiral out of control.
Russia called an emergency Security Council meeting earlier in the day to submit a draft resolution calling on Turkey to "cease any actions that undermine Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity," according to a statement on the Foreign Ministry's website.
The Russian draft resolution didn't name Turkey but it was clearly aimed at the Turkish government, which has threatened ground action and was keeping up its cross-border artillery shelling campaign Friday against U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia positions in Syria.
The draft also made no mention of the current Syrian offensive in the north, backed by Russian aerial attacks, that has almost cut off Syria's largest city, Aleppo.
Turkey's U.N. Ambassador told reporters his country was exercising its right to self-defense and responding to fire from Syrian soil. He reiterated that "Turkey will not be going into Syria with the boots on the ground if it is not a collective action, either by the Security Council or by the international coalition that we are a part of."
France's U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre, asked whether Paris supported the Russian draft, replied: "The short answer is no."
He said the current military escalation is "the direct result of the brutal offensive in the north of Syria led by the Syrian regime and its allies." And he said Russia must understand that its support for Syria's President Bashar Assad is "a dead end that could be extremely dangerous."
"In these conditions," Delattre told reporters, "it is more urgent than ever to create the conditions leading to the resumption of negotiations."
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power called the Russian draft "a distraction," and urged Moscow instead to implement a resolution adopted unanimously by the Security Council in December endorsing a peace plan for Syria that includes a cessation of hostilities and negotiations between the Assad government and opposition.
"It's incredibly important that we have de-escalation," Power told reporters after the closed council meeting. "We have a resolution on the books. It's the right resolution. We've committed ourselves to it and we need Russia to do the same."
The Russian draft demands that all countries "commit to and unconditionally" implement provisions of the December resolution.
It also demands that all countries refrain from "provocative rhetoric and inflammatory statements inciting further violence and interference into internal affairs" of Syria, and it reaffirms that all states must prevent the illegal movement of "foreign terrorist fighters" and weapons into Syria.
Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said he told the council that Russia is open to negotiate the text and would welcome proposals.
"It's a moment of truth," he said, because the draft reaffirms and repeats what all 15 council members have said during the Syria crisis, "so I don't consider from even political reasons how they can refuse all these principles in the Russian draft."
Venezuela's U.N. Ambassador Rafarl Ramirez said he expects comments from council members on the draft resolution on Monday.
The Feb. 12 meeting in Munich of 18 key nations supporting opposing sides in Syria's five-year civil war agreed to a cessation of hostilities within a week— but that didn't happen because of intense fighting. U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura also expressed hope that day for a resumption of peace talks by Feb. 25.
But de Mistura told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on Friday that he cannot "realistically" get the parties in the Syrian conflict back to the table by then, though "we intend to do so soon."
Delattre said what is urgently needed now is to prevent the current escalation from becoming "a full regional conflagration or confrontation."
This requires an immediate cessation of hostilities, unrestricted access for humanitarian aid, and a return to peace talks, he said.