November 19, 2015 / 11:18 PM / 5 years ago

U.N. committee condemns Iranian intervention in Syria war

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee on Thursday adopted a Saudi-drafted resolution condemning Iranian and Russian intervention in Syria, a decision that the Syrian and Iranian delegations rejected as unhelpful and unjustified.

A still image taken from video footage, released by Russia's Defence Ministry on November 19, 2015, shows a Russian military jet taking off at Hmeimim airbase in Syria. REUTERS/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout via Reuters

The non-binding resolution, authored by Saudi Arabia and co-sponsored by Qatar and other Arab nations, the United States and other Western powers, was adopted by the 193-nation assembly’s Third Committee.

There were 115 votes in favor, 15 against and 51 abstentions.

Without explicitly naming Russia, it said the General Assembly “strongly condemns all attacks against the Syrian moderate opposition and calls for their immediate cessation, given that such attacks benefit so-called ISIL (Daesh) and other terrorist groups, such as al Nusra Front.” “ISIL” and “Daesh” are names for Islamic State.

The resolution’s language is clearly aimed at Russia, which has been bombing opposition forces in Syria for two months. Moscow says it is attacking Islamic State but Western officials say its strikes have mainly targeted other rebel forces, including Western-backed groups.

The resolution also condemned the presence in Syria of “all foreign terrorist fighters ... and foreign forces fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime, particularly the al Quds Brigades, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (of Iran) and militia groups, such as Hezbollah.”

Saudi Arabia’s U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi urged U.N. member states to support the resolution, invoking the memory of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian refugee whose tiny body washed up on a Turkish beach in September.

“I appeal to you not to let Aylan down,” he said. “Do not kill him twice.”

Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari rejected the resolution and accused its Saudi authors of hypocrisy about what he said are widespread human rights in the kingdom. He referred to “decapitation and flogging in public squares,” saying they were like abuses of Islamic State.

He accused the Saudis, along with Qatar and Turkey, of supporting what he said were terrorists in Syria.

The delegates of Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia rejected the charges.

Iran’s deputy U.N. representative, Ambassador Gholamhossein Dehghani, also rejected the resolution. He said it blurred the clear distinction between “terrorists with those who fight against them.”

The resolution demands foreign militias leave Syrian territory immediately.

It also blasts Islamic State and other Islamist militant groups for rights abuses and atrocities.

But most of the criticism in the resolution is aimed at the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russia and Iran whom Western and many Arab nations would like to see ousted and blame for the nearly five-year civil war.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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