Europe News

France wants U.N. resolution on Aleppo, force Russia's hand

PARIS/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday he was working to put forward a U.N. Security Council resolution for a ceasefire in the Syrian city of Aleppo, and that any country that opposed it would be deemed complicit in war crimes.

Speaking to lawmakers, Jean-Marc Ayrault accused Syria, backed by Russia and Iran, of carrying out an “all-out war” on its people, something that Paris could not sit by idly watching.

“At this very moment, we are proposing to discuss a resolution to obtain a ceasefire in Aleppo,” Ayrault said. “This resolution will leave everyone facing their responsibilities: those who don’t vote for it, risk being held responsible for complicity in war crimes.”

Since the collapse of a ceasefire brokered by Washington and Moscow, Russian and Syrian warplanes have launched their biggest offensive on Aleppo’s besieged rebel-held sectors, in a battle that has become a potentially decisive turning point in the five-year civil war.

With Western states reluctant to pour weapons into Syria to change the military balance of power, Paris hopes that by taking the matter directly to the United Nations Security Council it may be able to force Moscow into some form of compromise.

“We will not let Aleppo become the Guernica of the 21st century,” Ayrault said, referring to the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in the Basque town during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.

A senior French diplomatic source said Paris had prepared a text that it wanted to discuss with Britain and the United States before presenting it to the Russians.

“The idea is not to get a Russian veto, but to have a proper discussion with them on ending the violence, enabling humanitarian access and putting a mechanism in place to enforce the ceasefire,” said the diplomat. “If they don’t play the game then we will have no qualms taking this to the Security Council even if it means a Russian veto.”

Britain’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Peter Wilson said diplomats were looking to “move on this as quickly as we possibly can”.

A senior council diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was time to force Moscow’s hand. “We’re trying to embarrass Russia into doing the right thing on the ground,” he said. “Our priority is action on the ground ... If that doesn’t work then I think we’re back in the Security Council.”

France has also been pushing for a separate Security Council resolution after a joint investigation by the U.N. and the global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW found that Syrian government troops were responsible for two toxic gas attacks and Islamic State militants used sulfur mustard gas.

“The Security Council must condemn the use of chemical weapons under chapter 7,” Ayrault said.

Chapter 7 deals with sanctions and authorization of military force by the Security Council.

Addititional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; editing by Richard Lough, Giles Elgood and David Stamp