U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Monday proposed a new binding resolution imposing an immediate 30-day ceasefire in the Syrian region of eastern Ghouta, saying Russian and Syrian regimes "immediately disregarded" the U.N. ceasefire agreement passed last month.
Russia helped negotiate the previous ceasefire, which was approved unanimously by the Security Council in February, but Haley pointed out how Russia has continued to fight in Syria. Civilians have, as a result, continued to die at the hands of Russia and Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and Haley questioned whether Russia even has influence over Assad.
"Today, we know that the Russians did not keep their commitment," Haley said. "Today, we see their actions don’t match those commitments, as bombs continue dropping on the children of eastern Ghouta. Today, we must ask whether Russia can no longer influence the Assad regime to stop the horrific destruction of hospitals, medical clinics, and ambulances; to stop dropping chemical weapons on villages."
She questioned whether Russia can even maintain control over its ally Syria.
"Has the situation in Syria reversed and Russia is now the tool of Assad? Or worse, Iran?" Haley asked. "We must ask these questions because we know the Russians themselves have continued their own bombing."
Haley pointed to Russian bombing campaigns that continued unabated after the ceasefire was negotiated.
"In the first four days following the ceasefire, Russian military aircraft conducted at least 20 daily bombing missions in Damascus and eastern Ghouta. The Russians negotiated the wording of the ceasefire, down to the commas and the periods. They voted for the ceasefire. And they immediately disregarded it."
In addition, Haley emphasized that the U.N. Security Council’s impotence on the matter threatens its credibility.
"If we can’t count on the members of the council to honor their agreements, we can’t accomplish anything. And if we can’t act when children are dying, we have no business being here," she said. "If we can’t save families that haven’t seen the sun for weeks because they have been hiding underground to escape barrel bombs, then the Security Council is as impotent as its worst critics say it is."
Medical and humanitarian aid to Syrians has been held up, and Haley noted that more than 500 civilians have died since the ceasefire was agreed to.
"In the past 16 days, over 500 civilians have died, and some reports put the death toll even higher," Haley said. "This is unacceptable."
She accused Russia and Syria of labeling all their opponents "terrorists" in order to exploit the ceasefire agreement’s provision allowing for military action against ISIS and al-Qaeda, leading to a continuation of hostilities. As a result, she argued a new ceasefire agreement was necessary.
"The ceasefire has failed," Haley said. "The situation of the civilians in eastern Ghouta is dire, and the United States is acting. We have drafted a new ceasefire resolution that provides no room for evasion. It is simple, straightforward, and binding. It will take effect immediately upon adoption by this Council."
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has stated that a top priority is to protect Damascus City and eastern Ghouta. Haley said the United States sees protecting people in those places as an urgent concern.
"[The new resolution] contains no counterterrorism loopholes for Assad, Iran, and the Russians to hide behind," Haley said. "And it focuses on the area the Secretary-General has identified—and that the world can see—holds the greatest urgency for the lives of innocent civilians: Damascus City and eastern Ghouta."