A trail of blood remains after an explosion in Idlib last week that killed seven people. Photo: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP
NEW YORK – The conflict in Syria could expand to a “regional and international confrontation,” warned France’s ambassador to the United Nations.
“Look at the situation in Syria: all the ingredients are present, if we do nothing about it urgently, for a major regional and international confrontation,” Ambassador Francois Delattre said on Wednesday in answer to a question from Rudaw’s Majeed Gly.
Delattre was on his way into a session of the UN Security Council that will discuss a resolution proposing a one-month humanitarian ceasefire in Syria.
The UN requested a ceasefire
in order to allow delivery of humanitarian aid to desperate civilian populations after nearly seven years of war in the country that has drawn international actors into its complicated battle field. Russia and Iran are backing Damascus, the US and the global coalition are backing the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to fight ISIS, and Turkey is backing elements within Syrian rebel forces to combat ISIS and the Kurdish forces.
The potential for conflict between the United States and Russia was highlighted when reports emerged of possible Russian casualties
in US-led coalition airstrikes on Syrian regime allies in Syria’s eastern Deir ez-Zor province.
NATO allies Turkey and the United States have verbally sparred
over the northern Syrian town of Manbij, where the United States has forces training and assisting its Syrian allies in the war against ISIS – forces that Ankara alleges are a branch of the PKK, a named terror organization.
Last week, an Israeli
jet crashed during retaliatory operations in Syria after an Iranian drone allegedly entered Israel’s airspace from Syria.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for Iran to withdraw from Syria.
"This again illustrates why Iran's presence in Syria is only destabilising to the region," Tillerson said at a press conference on Wednesday evening.
"We think Iran needs to withdraw its military, its militia from Syria, and allow the hope for peace process to take hold."
The threat of confrontation between the various international actors combined with the humanitarian emergency “is enough to call for a strong reaction” and support for the ceasefire, Delattre explained. “We believe that the strategic component of all this is now another source of great emergency and extreme concern for us and also, I guess, for many of my colleagues.”
Asked if Turkey would be obliged to cease its Operation Olive Branch in Afrin if the Security Council passes the resolution, the ambassador from Sweden, which is a co-sponsor of the draft resolution, declined to comment.
In the Security Council session, the US and Russia each said the other bears responsibility for de-escalating the situation in Syria.
"Russia can push the regime to commit to seeking a real peace in Syria," US Ambassador Nikki Haley said.
"Now is the time for Russia to use that leverage… push the Assad regime to do what it plainly does not want to do,” she added.
Russia’s Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia responded that the United States and its allies should use their own influence to ease the conflict, complaining that demands are “constantly” being made on Russia.
Nebenzia told reporters that the Council is “striving for consensus,” but a ceasefire will not happen “overnight.”
Updated at 11:05 pm