Thursday, 22 September 2016

UN quietly removes accusations against Russia and Syria


21 September, 2016

The UN has revised its recently released statement regarding the humanitarian convoy affected by an attack in Syria. The phrase “air strikes” were replaced with references to unspecified “attacks.” Change of the text of the statement came after explanations of the Russian side.

Earlier, the UN reported that the convoy was damaged “as a result of an airstrike.” In response, the Russian delegation noted that that neither the Russian Aerospace Forces, nor the Syrian Air Forces have attacked the convoy with humanitarian aid.

Spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, said that after studying a video, no signs of aircraft ammunition’s hits on the humanitarian convoy on the outskirts of Aleppo have been identified. He also reminded that on Monday, terrorists of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (previously known as the Jabhat al-Nusra or the Al-Nusra Front) group began their offensive on Aleppo precisely in this direction, using “powerful artillery fire from tanks, cannon gunnery and various multiple rocket launchers.”

According to Konashenkov, the photos show that there are no relevant funnels, and vehicles do not have hull damages and fractures of its structures from the blast wave of the aero-ammunition. He also added that Russia had used drones to monitor the convoy but only to a certain point.

Around 13:40 Moscow time (10:40 GMT), the aid convoy has successfully reached the destination. The Russian side did not monitor the convoy after this, and its movements were only known to militants, who were controlled the area,” Konashenkov said.

The spokesman also noted that a pickup truck with a large-caliber mortar, used by terrorists, can be clearly seen in the footage. “The video clearly shows how terrorists are relocating a pickup truck with a large-caliber mortar,” he said.

After this, the UN has decided to modify the text of the statement. The new wording states that the convoy suffered “as a result of an unknown attack.”

We are not in a position to determine whether these were in fact airstrikes. We are in a position to say that the convoy was attacked,” a representative of the UN for Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke, said. According to his words, mention of the air strike in the early edition of the UN document is a result of a drafting error.

According to UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, the attack may be considered a war crime, if intentionally directing attacks against volunteers of the humanitarian organization is proved.
However, despite the new UN statement, the US continues to believe that Russia is responsible for the incident.

US President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said that all indications are “that this was an airstrike.”

There only could have been two entities responsible: either the Syrian regime or the Russian government. In any event, we hold the Russian government responsible,” he said.

On Monday evening, a humanitarian convoy of the UN and the Red Crescent came under an air attack on the Castello Highway. As a result of the attack, at least 18 vehicles were destroyed, and 12 people were killed.

Photo: AFP / Omar Haj Kadour
Photo: AFP / Omar Haj Kadour
Photo: AFP / Omar Haj Kadour

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