West still arming Al-Nusra in Syria, peace almost impossible – Russia’s UN envoy

The Al-Nusra Front in Aleppo keeps receiving tanks and heavy weapons shipped by their Western backers as the US turns a blind eye, Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, told the Security Council. He added that securing peace "is almost an impossible task now."

Al-Nusra Front is currently the most powerful group fighting against the government in Aleppo, with 2,000 out of 3,500 militants in the city the group’s members.

“They are armed by tanks, APCs, field artillery, multiple rocket launchers… dozens and dozens of units, including heavy weaponry… Of course, they couldn’t have made this equipment themselves. All of this has been received by them and is still being shipped to them by generous Western backers, with the US, presumably, turning a blind eye,” Churkin said.

According to the Russian envoy, the Al-Nusra Front militants use the civilian population of Aleppo as human shields while indiscriminately attacking residential areas in the city controlled by the Syrian government.

“Over 200,000 residents of Aleppo are hostages of the Al-Nusra Front and groups allied with it,” Churkin said.

The terrorists are the main reason why attempts to deliver humanitarian aid to Aleppo have failed, contradicting accusations by the US, which blames Russia and Damascus, he said.

Moscow’s experience of giving concessions to the Syrian rebels following requests from the US, in the hope of it culminating in a ceasefire has not worked, Churkin told the Security Council adding that Moscow will no longer be following these steps.

Vitaly Churkin said that Russia has pressured Damascus on several occasions to meet the demands of its opponents, in the hope that this would lead to a ceasefire. However, this has not had the desired result and has seen constant violations by some rebel groups despite Washington's promise to keep them under control.

“The American side de facto signed that it was unable to influence the groups it sponsors and to deliver on the deal as it promised. First of all, to separate those groups from terrorists and mark their positions on the ground accordingly,” he said.

He added that the actions of the US-led coalition, which killed 62 Syrian government soldiers in a miscalculated airstrike near Deir ez-Zor and exposed them to an offensive by the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) damaged relations with Damascus.

He dismissed criticism of the Syrian army, expressed at the Security Council meeting by the US, France and the UK, over the latest offensive in eastern Aleppo.

Churkin also turned down statements made by his US counterpart Samantha Power, who said Russia had to prove that it genuinely has intentions of bringing peace to Syria, saying the other parties also have to prove they are willing to take steps towards achieving a ceasefire.

The ceasefire can only be salvaged now on a collective basis. It's not us that have to prove something to somebody unilaterally. We have to see proof that there is a genuine desire to separate US-allied rebel groups from the Al-Nusra Front, then destroy the Al-Nusra Front and bring the opposition into a political process. Otherwise our suspicions that this was only meant to shield the Al-Nusra Front would only grow stronger.

The UN Security Council meeting was convened at the request of the US, the UK and France to discuss the escalation of violence in Syria, after a ceasefire agreement, which was negotiated by Russia and the US had expired. The three countries accused Russia and Syria of causing civilian suffering in Aleppo, but did not mention the role played by armed groups opposing Damascus, which control large portions of the city.

China took a neutral stance and called on the revival of the ceasefire and facilitation of humanitarian aid to Aleppo, without accusing any party for the violence. The Chinese envoy stressed that counter-terrorism effort is an essential part for resolving the Syrian conflict.

The Syrian envoy said Damascus was determined to take the whole of Aleppo under its control and dismissed accusations of indiscriminate attacks against civilians and the use of incendiary weapons, which the US voiced against the Syrian army.

UN's special envoy for Syria reported to the Council that the conditions in the contested city are deteriorating and that it needs relief as soon as possible.

After the UN Security Council meeting, Churkin was asked by the press if the Syrian peace talks between Moscow and Washington were “dead” after recent developments.

“I don’t think so,” he replied, but added: “The situation is very difficult.”

“We made our position clear. We need a serious process without trickery, without people changing their demands every two days. We had an agreement and the only thing required was fulfilling it without changing stances,” the envoy said.

If Washington “continues acting in the same manner, it will be difficult to have a serious peace process,” he warned. 

The US and its allies aren’t paying enough attention to the violations by the Syrian opposition because in that case “we would find that there aren’t really any moderates” among them, former US diplomat Jim Jatras told RT.

“You have group like al-Zenki that cut the head of a Palestinian kid two weeks ago and was accused of using chlorine gas; Ahrar al-Sham, which is another jihadist group that chased the Americans out of northern Syria,” he said.

According to Jatras, Washington is failing to keep its promise to persuade the opposition to obide with the ceasefire because “frankly, I don’t think [the US] have that much influence.”

“It’s part of a problem that the US has had in repeated wars where we have supported Wahhabist terrorist groups,” including Libya and Afghanistan, where previously backed militants eventually turned against the Americans, Jatras said.

One of the key problems that makes the current situation in Syria particularly difficult is the fact that there are actually no moderate opposition groups, as various rebel groups are in fact controlled by several powerful terrorist organizations, Willy van Damme, a Belgian journalist who has closely followed the Syrian crisis, told RT.

“The problem is that Al Qaeda controls the rebels together with some other terrorist groups. As long as it continues, it is useless to talk about the ceasefire, it is useless to talk about a political solution – it will not happen,” van Damme said.

He also added that even “Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for the US Army fighting Islamic State in Baghdad, said on April 26 that the eastern part of Aleppo is controlled by Al Qaeda.” At the same time, van Damme stressed that “Western governments and western media do not pay any attention in reality to what the so called rebels… do.”