Against the backdrop of the terrifying images of death, destruction and human suffering in war-ravaged eastern Ghouta, Syria, the UN Security Council on Saturday unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria.
All 15 UNSC members voted in favour of the resolution.
The impact of the suffering of the civilian population in Ghouta, estimated around 400,000, has been so severe that it led UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last week to describe it as “hell on earth” for the common people living there.
While the resolution’s core element is the 30-day ceasefire agreement, it also calls for weekly aid convoys, medical evacuations and immediate abandonment of sieges, particularly in eastern Ghouta.
The resolution also lays down that the cessation of hostilities would not apply to military operations against Islamic State, Al Qaeda and Al Nusra Front.
Before voting on the resolution began, Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog, who jointly drafted the resolution with Kuwait, the president of the UNSC in February, spoke of a “resolute and urgent attempt to take action,” saying he counted “on each and every one of you to do the right thing,” adding the humanitarian convoys “are ready to go.”
“Our unanimous adoption of this resolution today, after long and arduous negotiations, reflects the keenness of the authors of the draft resolution, Kuwait and Sweden, to ensure consensus on this,” said Kuwait’s permanent representative, Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi, while announcing the results of the vote.
Secretary-general Guterres (photo) issued a statement welcoming the resolution’s adoption, stressing his expectation that “the resolution will be immediately implemented and sustained, particularly to ensure the immediate, safe, unimpeded and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and services, the evacuation of the critically sick and wounded and the alleviation of the suffering of the Syrian people.”
“The UN stands ready to do its part,” he said in the statement.
Guterres reminded all parties of their “absolute obligation under international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure at all times”.
“Similarly, efforts to combat terrorism do not supersede these obligations,” concluded the statement.
Ambassador Nikki Haley, US permanent representative to the UN, speaking after the adoption of the ceasefire resolution, highlighted the ordeal of the civilian population in eastern Ghouta.
“In the three days it took us to adopt this resolution, how many mothers lost their kids to the bombing and shelling? How many more images did we need to see of fathers holding their dead children?
“All for nothing, because here we are voting for a ceasefire that could have saved lives days ago. And after all of this time, hardly anything has changed in the resolution except a few words and some commas.
“The Syrian people should not have to die waiting for Russia to organize their instructions from Moscow, or to discuss it with the Syrians.”
Haley (photo) narrated the case of a female doctor treating patients in a makeshift hospital and the conditions she faced in Syria.
“We’re mental and emotional wrecks. There’s nothing more we can do. We are bled dry,” the doctor said.
In a haunting video, the doctor walks into a room with a mother weeping over her son’s condition: “I’m waiting for my son to die. At least he’ll be free of pain. I was just making bread for him when the roof fell in. He’s going straight to heaven. At least in heaven there’s food.”