U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Wednesday that Russia needs to use its leverage over Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria to bring about peace and security in the region.
Speaking to a U.N. Security Council briefing on Syria, Haley put the onus on Russia to use its influence as a key backer of the Assad regime to bring peace to the war-ravaged country. She appealed to the plight of the Syrian people in asking Russia, which occupies a permanent seat on the Security Council, to take action.
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"Russia can push the regime to commit to seeking a real peace in Syria, a peace that helps the Syrian people," Haley said. "A peace that helps ensure the region’s security. Now is the time for Russia to use that leverage."
Soon after that, she concluded her remarks by calling on all parties involved in the conflict to cease provocations.
"The road to peace will come when all of the parties stop provoking each other, and choose the responsible path," Haley said. "The path is clear: follow Resolution 2254, support Geneva, and most of all, push the Assad regime to do what it plainly does not want to do. If we rally around these goals, we will achieve real peace in Syria."
Haley blamed Russia for enabling malign actors in the Middle East. She noted groups such as Iran and its proxy terrorist organization Hezbollah have created instability, and Assad has even resorted to using chemical weapons.
"But we can’t offer support for peace on the one hand and ignore the fact that the chief sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East and its terrorist militia are digging in. Even as we talk about peace at the U.N., the fighting is getting worse. Much of the violence is happening in so-called de-escalation zones. Russia was supposed to guarantee adherence to these de-escalation zones to help the political process. But then again, Russia was also supposed to guarantee that all chemical weapons would be removed from Syria."
"Instead, we see the Assad regime continues to bomb, starve, and yes, gas civilians. All of us on this council know what it will take to get to peace in Syria. More than two years ago, the council unanimously adopted Resolution 2254, which includes a framework for ending this war," she added.
Haley also referred to an unprovoked attack on the U.S.-backed coalition to defeat ISIS in Syria just last week by pro-Assad regime forces.
"Last week, pro-regime forces launched an unprovoked attack against the Syrian Democratic Forces and advisers from the Defeat ISIS Coalition. This was a large attack involving numerous tanks, artillery, and fighters. The Coalition acted in self-defense to repel the attack, and the United States will always reserve the right to act in self-defense."
Some reports say the pro-regime force was composed of Russian mercenaries, but U.S. officials have not confirmed the reports.
Haley also decried the recklessness of pro-regime fighters and said the regime itself is controlled by other regional powers.
"The Assad regime has become a front for Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies to advance the irresponsible and dangerous agenda for the Middle East," she said.
She lambasted Iran for its militias launching a drone into Israeli territory on Saturday.
"Iranian-backed militias in southern Syria launched a drone into Israeli territory. It was an egregious and unprompted escalation," Haley said.
The Israeli military responded to the drone entering Israeli territory by raiding Palmyra, the drone's launch location, to retrieve the stealth aerial vehicle. A Syrian missile shot down one of the Israeli F-16s returning from the raid as it crossed the border into Israel, but both pilots were able to parachute to safety. Israel responded to the downing by sending its warplanes against the Syrian batteries. According to Israeli press reports, the response destroyed more than half of Syria’s anti-aircraft defenses.
Analysts believe the drone launch was intended to provoke a response from Israel as part of Iran’s long-term plans to increase its regional influence.