ANALYSIS: Failed Syrian ceasefire raises uncomfortable questions about the UN
New York — A ceasefire resolution for Syria has failed to take hold as Syrian forces, backed by Russia, make gains in Eastern Ghouta.
The question is arising: What is the UN doing? French ambassador Francois Delattre said the failure to stop the bloodshed in Syria could be "the graveyard of the UN", which was founded on the ashes of the Second World War.
Not everyone shares that view.
While the Security Council had failed the people of Syria, this did not mean the end of the global organisation, said British deputy ambassador Jonathan Allen.
The council adopted on February 24 a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria where hundreds have died in a fierce government attack on the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta.
It was the latest in a series of dark chapters in the seven-year war that the UN has been largely powerless to stop.
The resolution called for lifting sieges to allow humanitarian aid deliveries, but only two convoys have been authorised by the Syrian government this year to besieged areas.
UN expert Alexandra Novosseloff said it was unfair to lay the blame for the failure to end the fighting on the UN, which she said was a "tool" in the hands of its 193 member states.
The world body leads a massive humanitarian aid effort on the ground, which requires co-operation from Syrian authorities.
"You have to blame the states, some states, not the UN in its entirety," said Novosseloff.
UN expert Richard Gowan of the European Council for Foreign Relations also said the guilty finger should not be pointed at the UN for the failures of the Security Council.
"A lot of UN officials, and indeed a lot of diplomats inside the council, have wrecked their nervous systems trying to end the war," said Gowan.
The council is to meet on Monday to hear a report from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and try to plod on with a bid to turn the ceasefire voted in New York into a reality on the ground in Syria.
A closed-door meeting called by France and Britain on Wednesday was aimed at piling pressure on Moscow — which is supporting Syria militarily — to give civilians a reprieve. Human Rights Watch UN director Louis Charbonneau said the council stood to lose the little credibility it had left on Syria if it failed to get the ceasefire resolution enforced.
"The UN Security Council doesn’t have much credibility on Syria, though it’s been slightly better on the humanitarian side," said Charbonneau.
"But if the council isn’t going to enforce its own resolutions … it’s going to lose what few shreds of credibility on Syria that it has left."
The US, meanwhile, blames Russia for failing to force its ally in Damascus to halt its offensive in Eastern Ghouta. US ambassador Nikki Haley accused Russia of foot-dragging for days before the resolution was adopted to buy time for the Syrian military operation.
Russia has maintained that a ceasefire was a complicated endeavour because of jihadist groups fighting in Eastern Ghouta who are not covered by the ceasefire.
Gowan says Russia has used the Security Council to complicate and slow down peace efforts in Syria and that the West has been "to some extent, complicit".
"They have always known that Russia is gaming the system. But as the only ways to stop this would be to intervene militarily in Syria or give in to [Syrian president Bashar al-Assad], Washington and its friends keep on going back to New York and Geneva for more diplomatic games.
"Nobody has ever really cared enough about the people of Syria to stop the war."