U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley excoriated Russia on Tuesday for its militancy in Syria despite agreeing to yet another ceasefire.
Russia's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government has drawn Haley's ire before, as it has crippled humanitarian efforts in the war-torn country. Haley said the Syrian conflict is stuck in a cycle of "siege, starve, and surrender" that Russia perpetuates by flagrantly violating ceasefire agreements, with its latest conquest being eastern Ghouta.
"After years of enduring siege and starvation, residents are surrendering eastern Ghouta," Haley told the U.N. Security Council. "The terrible irony of this moment must be stated and acknowledged: in the 30 days since the Security Council demanded a ceasefire, the bombardment of the people of eastern Ghouta has only increased."
Haley said a responsible Security Council would demand humanitarian aid in Syria and refuse to tolerate Russian actions. But, she noted, that is impossible because Moscow has veto power in the Security Council.
"We cannot take these actions because Russia will stop at nothing to use its permanent seat on this council to shield its ally Bashar al-Assad from even the faintest criticism," Haley said. "And we cannot take these actions because instead of calling out how Assad, Russia, and Iran made a mockery of our calls for a ceasefire, too many members of this council wanted to wait."
"This is a travesty," she added. "This should be a day of shame for every member of this council. And it should be a lesson about what happens when we focus on fleeting displays of unity, instead of on what's right. For those who think otherwise, the people of eastern Ghouta deserve an explanation."
Haley added that the U.N. Security Council's fecklessness will continue to be embarrassing in the future.
"History will not be kind when it judges the effectiveness of this council in relieving the suffering of the Syrian people," she said. "Seventeen hundred Syrian civilians were killed in just the last month alone. Hospitals and ambulances are deliberately targeted with bombs and artillery. Schools are hit, like the school in eastern Ghouta that was bombed just last week, killing 15 children."
Haley described how Russia colluded with Syria at the U.N. as it negotiated a ceasefire deal with the Security Council.
"We could see our Russian friends constantly leaving the room to confer with their Syrian counterparts," Haley said. "Either Russia was informing their Syrian colleagues about the content of the negotiations, or Russia was taking directions from the Syrian colleagues about the content of the negotiations. Either way, Russia cynically negotiated a ceasefire it instantly defied."
Haley criticized Russia for its "audacity" in saying it is the only member of the Security Council to be implementing the ceasefire. She said Assad's government refuses to allow humanitarian aid to people not under its control.
"Only after territory falls into the hands of the Assad government and its allies is food and medicine allowed to be delivered," she said. "The Russian and Syrian rationalization is that they have to continue to bomb in eastern Ghouta in order to combat what they call ‘terrorists.' This is a transparent excuse for the Russians and Assad to maintain their assault."
"Meanwhile, from the very beginning, the opposition groups in eastern Ghouta expressed their readiness to implement the ceasefire," Haley added. "They told this council they welcomed the resolution. Russia's response was to call these groups terrorists and keep pummeling civilians into submission."
Haley said the U.S. was developing a plan for a stronger ceasefire a couple weeks ago but was urged to allow Resolution 2401 more time.
"Reluctantly, we agreed and put off introducing the resolution," Haley said. "Now, eastern Ghouta is over 80 percent controlled by Assad and his allies. Their deception, hypocrisy, and brutality have overtaken the chance of a ceasefire in eastern Ghouta. And for that, we should all be ashamed."