It’s hard to believe that 18 months after violence first broke out, the United Nations Security Council has still failed to act on the on-going civil war in Syria. Most of the blood of the 40,000 reported casualties is on Russia’s hands.
The violence used by the Assad regime has been widely condemned, with an August resolution in the UN General Assembly calling for an end to the violence receiving support from 133 nations with just 12 opposing. Yet Russia and China still refuse to allow sanctions to be imposed and continue to veto every resolution that comes before them.
Despite the Russian government issuing a statement indicating the need for political reform in Syria, their hollow words have not yet been backed with any action.
Perhaps president Putin’s close friendship with Assad is not the only problem. With the latest Turkish accusations that they are continuing to sell arms to the Syrian government, Russia are no longer just passively allowing the murder of innocent Syrian civilians, but they appear to be taking an active role in their murder.
According to sources, some 10% of arms exported by Russia are sold to President Assad, amounting to a $10bn incentive for them to continue abusing their role on the Security Council. Without sanctions, these deals are perfectly legal, but as the US State Department’s spokesperson described it, Russia’s policy towards Syria is “morally bankrupt”.
While many cite concerns of an escalating regional crisis as grounds for refusing to impose sanctions on Syria, their fear may be being realised, with sanctions or no sanctions.
In the past few months, the Syrian army has killed two Turkish pilots who they accuse of straying into their airspace, and five Turkish civilians in border villages.
In response, Turkey have returned fire with increasing frequency, and have begun to assemble their military close to the border.
As a member of Nato, Turkey are entitled to invoke Article Five of the North Atlantic Treaty, which would require all Nato members to react as if their territory had too been attacked by Syria. Despite them both closing their airspace to the other’s aircraft in the past week, Turkey maintain that they have no desire for a military conflict with Syria, but how much more provocation will Turkey stand?
Perhaps it’s time for the Security Council to reconsider sanctions on Syria, with their vetoes holstered.