In a four-hour session called to discuss the "humanitarian crisis" in Syria, the United Nations Security Council yesterday featured a host of new threats against Syria. But the decision of the majority of foreign ministers not to attend, and the de facto veto of any resolution on UN action for "safe zones" and the like, prevented anything but the venting of opinions by those present.
The intent of those calling the meeting was shown by the only two foreign ministers of the Permanent Five to show up, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and British Foreign Minister William Hague. They held a press conference prior to the discussion, where they called for Assad to be hauled before the International Criminal Court, and declared their preference for "safe zones" inside Syria. (Indeed, France has announced that it is already providing aid to rebel enclaves inside Syria.) Acknowledging that the UNSC will never go for this proposal, Hague still insisted: "We don't rule out anything. If this [violence] goes on, we need to look at a range of solutions."
The bulk of the session was devoted to testimony from the Deputy Secretary-General (Jan Eliasson), the UN Commissioner for Refugees (Antonio Guterres), and the four neighbors of Syria who are receiving a lot of refugees — 229,000, according to their testimony. The first two also addressed the dire situation inside Syria, where about one million Syrians have been displaced, but an additional 1.5 million people from other nations, especially Iraq and Palestine, are being given refuge. Camp conditions, the ability to receive medical care and sanitation, and the like, were discussed by all, and of course, more money demanded.
The two major antagonists at the meeting were Turkey's Davotoglu and Syrian Ambassador Jafari. Davotoglu raged against the fact that no resolution was even being discussed, and threw one accusation after the other at the Syrian government, accusing it of crimes against humanity like Srebrenica; insisting the government was the only side responsible for the horrors; and threatening that "radical groups" will "take over" if Assad is not forced out soon.
For his part, Jafari (who spoke last, but for several rebuttals) accused the Turkish government (not the people) of "becoming the executioner of Syria." He reviewed the international roster of fighters, charged that some of the refugee camps were actually "detention camps," and said that Syria was being subjected to "Dark Ages tribunals." He regretted that Davotoglu had left the room, leaving the Turkish UN ambassador in his place, while he preened in front of the press-opportunity cameras outside.
Obama's warmongering ambassador Susan Rice's speech is not yet available, but she appears to have taken a back seat to the French and Turkish on this occasion.