Sunday, February 19, 2017

Markov, Sergei; Mann, Hillary; Akbik, Monzer. “Is the United Nations All Talk and No Action?” (09 Oct 2016) Al Jazeera, Inside Story.

1.       Finighan: Is the United Nations all talk and no action? The Security Council fails again in it’s attempts for a Ceasefire in Syria and the Bombing of Aleppo continues. So who’s really calling the shots in this complex Conflict? This is Inside Story.

2.       Finighan: Hello, welcome to the programme, I’m Adrian Finighan. Russia has vetoed a UN Resolution to end the Bombing of Aleppo and another Russian-sponsored Resolution also failed. The UN is warning that if airstrikes continue on rebel-held Areas, Syria’s second largest City will be destroyed by the end of the year. UN Ban Ki-Moon says that it’s worse than a slaughterhouse. In a moment we’ll look at what options remain for Aleppo, but first our Diplomatic Head Editor James Bays reports from New York on those UN votes.

3.       Bays: Two votes on two separate rival Security Council Resolutions. One proposing a grounding of all military aircraft flying over Aleppo vetoed by Russia. The second watered-down version proposed by Russia which only got four votes in favour. A day of high drama in the Security Council, but also what must be seen as a day of shame that will do absolutely nothing to help the People of Aleppo.

4.       Translator: Today we’re participating in one of the strangest spectacles in the History of the Security Council voting on two draft Resolutions of the Council, knowing that neither will be adopted.

5.       Bays: But many others blame that spectacle on the Russian ploy of introducing a second Resolution at the last minute and vetoing the first Resolution that would otherwise have passed.

6.       Rycroft: Normally I begin my statements in this council with the words “Thank you, Mr. President.” I cannot do that today. Because today we have seen the fifth veto in five years on Syria from you, Mr. President. A veto that has once again stopped this Council from creating the unity needed to give the People of Syria any hope for respite from their suffering.

7.       Bays: The U.S. representative was also scathing about the role of Russia.

8.       Pressman: Today was Time for the Council to act, to learn the lessons of the recent Past. We failed to do that because one of us, perversely the President of United Nations Security Council, is intent on allowing the Killing to continue and indeed participating in carrying it out. It is grotesque. [Samantha Power. Madeleine Albright. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.]

9.       Bays: There are few diplomatic options left. The International Syria support Group, all the key international and regional players got nowhere. Then there were efforts by the U.S. and Russia, they are now not talking to each other. And the last-ditch option was trying to get the Security Council to take a lead, they’ve now hit a roadblock.

  There is one final initiative led by Security Council Member New Zealand. Its ambassador Gerard van Bohemen has his own draft text and he’s consulting with other countries about one more attempt to get Agreement around the Security Council Table. James Bays, Al Jazeera, at the United Nations.

10.   Finighan: Millions of Syrians have fled their Homes during the five years of Fighting and there’s been a large exodus from Aleppo, but the UN says there still could be two million People trapped in the City, many afraid that their Homes will be taken by the regime if they leave. More than 400 civilians, around 1/3 of them Children, have been killed in the last two weeks alone. Hospitals have been continuously bombarded in Aleppo. There are now only five which remain operational in the besieged part of the City. We’ll bring in our guest in just a moment, but first I want to speak to Dr. Meguerditch Terzian who is the President of Doctor’s Without Borders, Médecins Sans Frontieres. Welcome to inside story, sir. What are you hearing about conditions inside Aleppo right now?
11.   Terzian: Conditions are catastrophic according to the 35 doctors remaining in the Town. They are telling simply bombs are raining continuously on Aleppo since weeks and weeks. Wounded patients everywhere. Eight hospitals only are capable to continue to function with big difficulties.
12.   Finighan: That is quite a concern, isn’t it, the fact that John Kerry has said that the Bombing of civilians in Aleppo could amount to War-crimes, and medical Facilities appear to be being deliberately targeted.

13.   Terzian: Yes, since the beginning of this Conflict hospitals and the medical mission in general is systematically attacked and honestly no one cares. So five years after, Aleppo unfortunately it’s not an exception. The major problem are the 250,000 Population that they are besieged in Aleppo and they are under Bombs since several weeks now. It’s the same situation in other besieged Zones like rural Damascus, in Homes as well. So the situation is very Bad as well in these besieged Areas, knowing that there is 18 besieged Zones in Syria, majority of them under the opposition Control.

14.   Finighan: Of course, Water supplies have been directly targeted. There’s a limited availability of fresh Water, Food supplies are dwindling, 400 People have died in the last couple of weeks alone, this is a situation that is only going to get worse, isn’t it?
15.   Terzian: Yes, unfortunately People are very pessimistic. They have difficulties to find Water, they have difficulties to receive Electricity. If this situation will continue, clearly in the hospitals in the coming weeks the situation will be catastrophic because they need Water to Control the hygiene of the Hospital, they need Electricity to continue to work in proper way, and if there is no basic conditions, it will be very difficult for this population stuck in Aleppo town to reach the medical facilities.
16.   Finighan: What would your message be to the politicians at the United Nations who failed so abysmally at the weekend once again to pass a Resolution to stop the violence in Aleppo?
17.   Terzian: Unfortunately all the Resolutions failed again in this Conflict. We are not politicians, we are trying simply to report what our colleagues are reporting from Aleppo, hoping that a miracle will happen and the politicians finally will find a Solution.
18.   Finighan: Dr. Terzian, many thanks indeed.
19.   Terzian: Thank you.

20.   Finighan: All right, so let’s bring in our guests for today’s programme. Joining us from Moscow, Sergei Markov, Director of the Institute for Political Studies and Public Spokesman for President Putin. From Washington we’re joined by Hillary Mann []. And from Abu Dhabi we’re joined by Monzer Akbik, spokesman of Tomorrow Movement, that’s a Syrian opposition Group. Welcome to you all. Sergei Markov, we’ll start with you. We heard right at the beginning of the programme, the US and British ambassadors criticising Russia’s Veto at the UN Security Council. Has Russia abused its veto privilege here?

21.   Markov: Of course that’s a [some Russian] without destroying of United Nations. But now we see a little bit irrational policy of Washington and London so we can believe it as that they can try and to crush United Nation, one of the major institute for whole international community. I think the main problem in Aleppo and Syria is United States in fact became the ally of Al-Qaeda named Jabhat al-Nusra. They tried to separate pro-American rebels in Syria from Jabhat al-Nusra as they cannot do it during the year. Probably there are no Possibility to make the division between al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra and pro-American Syrian rebels. I want to ask American officials and American soldiers: Do you agree that some crazy Washington politicians making your ally of Al-Qaeda, those Al-Qaeda which attacked Americans and killed thousands of American in New York on September 11?
22.   Finighan: Let’s bring in Hillary Mann Leverett then in Washington. What do you make of what you’ve just heard there. I mean Russia calls its aerial activities of Aleppo “Anti-Terrorist Strikes” and Russia’s Foreign Minister says he can’t see that the US is seriously fighting militants from the Group that was formerly known as al-Nusra and is suspicious of Washington’s calls for Russia and the Syrian air force to cease their Bombing runs on Aleppo.

23.   Mann: You know the Russian position is an interesting one and it has gained attraction, it has gained Power and dominance as we see clearly on the military battlefield in Syria, but also politically because it points, I think, objectively to an incoherence here in Washington that even supporters of the Obama Administration, among Democrats especially, see a real incoherence in this determination, this rhetorical determination to fight Terrorism but then to try to pick out who’s a Good terrorist and who’s a Bad terrorist. It’s something that is really, I think, riddling the presidential Campaign here and putting People that otherwise would normally be diametrically opposed on political issues, be they Foreign Policy or Domestic, on one side which points to an incoherence in the current Administration’s policy on Syria.
24.   Finighan: Let’s bring in Monzer Akbik then in Abu Dhabi. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that the other Resolution, the one that it vetoed, the Franco-Spanish one, distorts the real situation in Syria and that an aerial ban would only provide cover to “terrorists”. What do you make of that?

25.   Akbik: Definitely this is not the War on Terror. When you are Bombing indiscriminately a City, the eastern part of Aleppo where there is about 300,000 People living, most of them women and Children, you’re Bombing Hospitals, you’re Bombing Marketplaces and killing all these Children and saying that I am fighting Terrorism. This is ridiculous. This is not a Fight on Terrorism, this is a Fight on the People. This is War against the People that Bashar al-Assad started five years ago because the People wanted Freedom and Democracy and he is still continuing with this War. In east Aleppo there are only 300, the number of the fighters from al-Nusra Front, which is classified in United Nations Resolutions as terrorist Group, and there are 9,000 other fighters, rebels that are not classified as terrorists. So because we have 300 People we are wiping out the whole City and we are destroying the whole City because of 300 fighters? This is not logical. In [Darayya?] for example, West of Damascus, there was not one single fighter from al-Nusra and the City of sieged by the Regime for about 3.5 years, and People were starved until they got out completely of the City. So this was is very clear, it’s a War on the People and it’s a War to keep Bashar al-Assad in Power and al-Nusra is being used as just excuse and it’s used just to continue with this rejection of the Ceasefire attempts that was tried by France and Spain.
26.   Finighan: You quoted some figures that Steffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy to Syria told the Security Council, that it was the presence of 1,000 or so al-Nusra fighters that was being as a pretext for the Bombing of 275,000 People. Sergei Markov, Russia is helping to wage War against the People, is it?

27.   Markov: Of course it’s pure propaganda. It’s difficult [some Russian] to hear that our colleagues in Aleppo don’t want to discuss real issues. And real issue, first of all, separation of clear terrorist such as al-Qaeda Jabhat al-Nusra from pro-American rebels. And why you don’t divide them? My colleague didn’t want to answer those question, but now we have clear Answer. Because in fact, no difference between them, because this is a so-called moderate jihadist and Jabhat al-Nusra. In fact, one army and they fighting as one army. And second issue which we should discuss is the Mistura plan. I think it’s a very Good plan. It can help to save tragic humanitarian situation in Aleppo. Let’s allow those fighters to leave Aleppo and to go [some Russian] under the Control of the United Nations without any Bombing from the Syrian Government.
28.   Finighan: Sergei, as I said a few moments ago, Russia calls its aerial activities over Aleppo “anti-terrorist strikes.” Just who is it that Russia is targeting in Aleppo then, and how come so many innocent civilians, Children, are being killed and injured by Russian strikes?
29.   Markov: I think the number of Children that have been killed by Saudi Arabia- and United States-led Coalition, much more, much more than from Russian strikes. It’s cruel War, sometimes civilians can also be killed but main problem is not Russian activity which support more or less civilised ophthalmologist, Bashar al-Assad. [Samantha Power. Madeleine Albright.] The problem is that those who want to overthrow Bashar al-Assad they are mostly jihadist and terrorists. Those who call for Freedom and Democracy they usually don’t take [some Russian] and go to Fight in Aleppo and in other Cities. Usually it’s sitting in Facebook in Paris or London or in Dacca. The problem is, I can repeat, separate al-Qaeda. And please, United States, don’t be Ally of al-Qaeda and we hope that [some Russian] now clearly will send signal to own Government, “We don’t want to be an Ally of al-Qaeda.”
30.   Finighan: Hillary Mann Leverett, what do you make of that? Why had US policy on Syria been such a failure?
31.   Mann: It was a strategic mistake to begin with. We knew that invading Iraq was a disaster. Invading Iraq not only lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of People but it essentially, in a way, strategically gave influence over Iraq to Iran. The military Intervention in Syria similarly was a disaster strategically. It gave over Libya to Chaos and led to this enormous refugee problem or contributed to it significantly. Similarly our Invasion of Afghanistan back in 2001 was a strategic disaster. So the decision here, very quickly, very just off-the-cuff, to call for the Overthrow of the Syrian Government was something that was reckless to begin with. I think increasingly People in Washington understand that. They understand that there is not a military Victory to be had that the United States could claim, which is why the United States keeps coming back to the diplomatic process with Russia as much as People really hate it here in Washington. They find it embarrassing, they find it a Perception of weakness of the Obama Administration, they find it distasteful, but there is no other way out of what otherwise will be an enormous strategic embarrassment for the United States. There will continue to be, I think, these kind of Negociations. It’s important, I think, for all the actors involved to spare the Lives of thousands of more Syrians, to get serious about a negotiated settlement and not to be focused on whether a fighter is moderate or not. It’s really an oxymoron to call a fighter “moderate” or terrorist “extreme.” They’re a fighter. Fighters fight because they’re Good at Killing, not because they’re Good at Democracy.
32.   Finighan: All right. Monzer Akbik, what happens next, do you think, in the run-up to Saturday’s vote, Germany’s Foreign Minister said that the mounting Tension between the US and Russia had created a situation that was more dangerous than the Cold War. France’s ambassador was, the Foreign Minister actually, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said that the vote was a moment of Truth for the Security Council. Is there any hope now, do you think of finding a diplomatic Solution to Syria’s War, brokered by the UN?
33.   Akbik: Well, I have seen the Security Council Session yesterday and the Sessions before that. It’s obvious that there is Confrontation, serious diplomatic Confrontation between the West and Russia nowadays. There is very strong statements from both sides against each other. Now the Western Group is calling Russia or accusing Russia that doing Crimes against Humanity and War-crimes in Syria by killing all these civilians with the Bombing, and nobody is really buying that they are destroying all these Cities and killing all these People just because they want to kill few hundreds of terrorists.
  Now what next it for us Syrians I would say that of course it was much better if the Resolution to stop the Bombing and cessation of Hostilities in Aleppo and allowing humanitarian Aid to enter Aleppo, if that was adopted, should have been much better. But unfortunately it was not. What this means is that Aleppo will still be seiged, that the People will still cannot have Food and Medicine, and many places they also cannot have Water. This means that the Bombing will continue and the War will continue and there will be more bloodshed, more suffering of the People. That’s why of course, we are not seeing any light at the end of the tunnel on the short term now, and of course we cannot foresee that there will be a World War because of Aleppo. So what we are hoping for now at least that the rebels should have something to defend themselves [for] the time being until such a Ceasefire Agreement could be reached between the Superpowers.
34.   Finighan: Sergei, with Relations having deteriorated as they have between Russia and the US, can you see them ever coming together to work to bring Peace to Syria? Will they ever see eye-to-eye on Syria again?
35.   Markov: Of course we very want to have a compromise in Syria and peaceful moving there. But main [thing] that should be done, United States should stop support Al-Qaeda. Now it’s very well much clear. And civilians in Aleppo use as hostages by such a military coalition of al-Qaeda, it’s mean Jabhat al-Nusra and pro-American rebels and fighters. We very much ask our American partner to be more rational and to be more clear, and also to have the policy which is supported by American People. We know very well that American People want United States to be Russian Ally in fighting against al-Qaeda, in Syria and in other Areas to Fight against international Terrorism. We very much [some Russian] by the fact that Washington is a strong Contradiction with the political Will of American People, now prepared to be military Ally of al-Qaeda against Russia in Syria. It could be very dangerous Development but we very hope that Rationality and Democracy will win in Washington.
36.   Finighan: Okay. Hillary, I just want to ask you about what Sergei was saying then. How do the so-called moderate opposition Groups in Aleppo separate themselves from the Group formally known as al-Nusra? That’s one point I wanted you to take on there that Sergei was talking about. And also about the Danger we were talking about here, this escalation, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s comments that this is a situation that’s rapidly becoming more dangerous than the Cold War.
37.   Mann: Absolutely. The issue of moderate fighters versus terrorist fighters or extreme fighters is really farcical in a way. As I said, there really is not a lot of difference. I don’t say that to say that the Russian position is correct, I say that as a statement of fact. It’s almost impossible to distinguish between these fighters and that’s why you see the incoherence in US policy on this point. I don’t think the United States is intentionally trying to stop a Ceasefire or to stop the Bloodshed in Syria, it’s just an enormous policy problem of Washington’s own making, but it’s still an enormous policy problem here that I think will only be resolved in a sense by the next President. You could not have a more stark choice before the American People between a President Clinton and a President Trump. They are diametrically opposed in terms of how to work with Russia.
  I think the German Foreign Minister has put his finger on a critically important issue for the World, which in part will be decided by the presidential race here, which is the future of US-Russian Relations. They have never been this bad, including during the Cold War. During the Cold War the United States recognised Russian Interests in Syria and of course in the former Soviet Space. Today the United States does not. And whether Russia is willing and capable of confronting the United States on this issue could really be one of the most momentous issues facing the World today. In part, it will be decided by what the next President of the United States wants to do vis-à-vis Russia. And over Syria.
38.   Finighan: And that, I’m afraid, is where we must end our discussion. Many thanks indeed to you all, Sergei Markov in Moscow, Hillary Mann Leverett in Washington, and in Abu Dhabi, Monzer Akbik. Thank you as always for watching. Don’t forget you can see the programme and get it anytime by going to For further discussion on this issue, join us on our Facebook page at story. You can also join the conversation on Twitter @AJinsidestory. From me, Adrian Finighan, and the whole team, thanks for watching. We’ll see you again, bye for now.

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