UN vote on Syria ceasefire pushed to Saturday

War and misery in Syria
Destroyed streets in Eastern Ghouta after a recent bombardment.

After multiple delays, the United Nations Security Council has pushed its vote on a 30-day ceasefire in Syria to noon on Saturday.

The Security Council’s 15 members were unable to reach an agreement on draft text and delayed the vote three times on Friday before putting it off for yet another day.

Security Council President Mansour Al-Otaibi said members were “very close” to closing the gaps, but didn’t elaborate on the main point of disagreement.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley was clear in blaming Russia for the lack of action.

“Unbelievable that Russia is stalling a vote on a ceasefire allowing humanitarian access in Syria. How many more people will die before the The Security Council agrees to take up this vote?” Haley tweeted.

More than 400 people have been killed since Sunday in the relentless bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, an enclave near the capital Damascus.

Around 400,000 people are in hiding as the suburb crumbles around them after being pounded with shells, mortars and bombs dropped by Russian-backed Syrian regime forces since Sunday night.

Most of the dead are women, children and the elderly, Dr. Fayez Orabi, head of the enclave’s health department, told CNN in a series of WhatsApp messages.

“It’s difficult to have a precise count because of the internet and communications are weak and the shelling and bombing are 24 hours,” Orabi said. “During writing this message to you more than 20 rockets have fell around us,” he added.

The UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also estimated that around 400 people have been killed, including 95 children and 61 women.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Russia is ready to vote for a ceasefire resolution but that the United States and its allies won’t provide guarantees that militants in Syria will observe it, according to Russia’s state-run RT outlet.

“For now, they refuse to accept an amendment which will place responsibility on them to ensure that the militants give clear guarantees to stop the shelling,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.

Sweden’s ambassador to the UN, Olof Skoog, said he too was frustrated by the delays but that members are working really hard to find “a meaningful but consensual resolution.”

“I am extremely frustrated with the fact that the Security Council, that we have not been able to adopt a resolution to try to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people. Yes, I’m very frustrated with that,” Skoog said.

“I think we all agree that there needs to be a ceasefire,” he said. “That has to be urgent, immediately. There’s still some discussions on exactly how to define that. That’s what we’re working on.”

Human Rights Watch called for immediate action. “Other countries should send a clear message to Syria’s chief enabler, Russia, that it needs to end its efforts to block the Security Council from taking action to stop these atrocities,” said Lama Fakih, the campaign group’s deputy Middle East director.