UNITED NATIONS — All 15 members of the UN Security Council on Monday adopted a resolution calling for the rapid deployment of international monitors to observe the evacuation of eastern Aleppo, Syria’s war-ravaged second city.
The resolution, drafted by France, signaled a rare sign of unity in a council that has been markedly divided over how to approach the Syrian civil war, which in March will have been raging for six years, and had claimed the lives of an estimated 400,000 people and displaced millions internally and into neighboring countries.
“This is a starting point,” France’s ambassador to the UN, Francois Dellatre, said after the vote.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the resolution will help shed some light on the implementation of an evacuation that she said has been “brutal” and “chaotic” at times since many people seeking to leave the city have been met with reluctant military officials who delay their departures.
“Today’s resolution, I think, is significant in the sense that at least we now have the council finally agreeing that people who want to leave eastern Aleppo should be able to be monitored by the United Nations, the ICRC, the Syrian Red Crescent and others,” she said. “With that presence, there may be some deterrence of what happens along the journey out of eastern Aleppo.”
The UN’s special envoy to the Syria conflict, Staffan de Mistura, said Monday that the long stalled Intra-Syrian talks would begin again in Geneva on Feb. 8. The series of talks have been stalled due to violence on the ground in Syria.
Syria’s UN ambassador, Bashar Ja’afari, said Aleppo had been “liberated from terrorists” and that the city would soon be “clean,” as the last few remaining rebels or foreign fighters leave the city during the evacuation.
“Unfortunately, some member states in the Security Council and the mainstream media continue to defend and support the genetically modified armed Syrian opposition. . . . while turning a blind eye to the crimes submitted by them, such as burning the buses yesterday,” he said.
Ja’afari, who said his government had already arranged for the evacuation of Aleppo for 3,750 terrorists and their families, said after the vote that the opposition had attacked some 25 buses and taken their drivers hostage.
The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 13.5 million people need humanitarian assistance, 4.9 million of whom are trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas.
The measure calls for UN monitors to “carry out adequate, neutral monitoring and direct observation on evacuations from the eastern districts of Aleppo and other districts of the city, and to report as appropriate thereon, to ensure further deployment of staff for these purposes as needed and demands all parties to provide these monitors with safe, immediate and unimpeded access.”
An earlier version of the resolution — slated for a vote Sunday — was rejected by Russia, which has vetoed as many as six resolutions on Syria since the conflict began in March 2011. Russia has served as the chief ally to Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces, assisted by Iran-backed Hezbollah and Russian air power, have attacked the ancient city for weeks and provoked a cease-fire and evacuation of both fighters and civilians.
The monitoring will supplement the implementation of a cease-fire and evacuation agreement that allowed thousands of Syrians on Monday to again begin leaving the rebel-held city, an agreement that had gotten off to a rocky start as exchanges of gunfire threatened to derail the process.
Streams of evacuees traveled north out of Aleppo three days after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “Aleppo is now a synonym for hell,” adding that the world had “collectively failed the people of Syria. Peace will only prevail when it is accompanied by compassion, justice and accountability for the abominable crimes we have seen.”
The resolution adopted Monday requires Ban to report on its progress to the Security Council within five days. Ban will report on whether the Syrian government had fulfilled its promise to grant access to the monitors.