Here’s How Bad It’s Gotten Between Russia and the USA When Talking Syria

There was a devastating series of car bombs in Damascus yesterday, targeting the Russian embassy and various government instillations. At least 90 people were killed, making it was one of the single deadliest attacks since the uprising began.

The Security Council discussed various ways to respond, but ran into a very familiar roadblock: disagreement between the USA and Russia. The USA refused to acede to the Russian drafted condemnation of the terrorist attack.

“We are disappointed that, as a result of the United States’ position at the United Nations Security Council, the terrorist act in Syria was not condemned,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a joint news conference after talks with China’s foreign minister.

“We believe this is double standards and see in it a very dangerous tendency by our American colleagues to depart from the fundamental principle of unconditional condemnation of any terrorist act, a principle which secures the unity of the international community in the fight against terrorism.”

To which the USA responded:

The Russian UN Mission’s assertion that the United States blocked a draft UN Security Council press statement yesterday condemning the car bombing in Damascus is false.  In fact, the United States accepted all elements of the Russian draft statement and merely requested the addition of language concerning the regime’s brutal attacks against the Syrian people.  Unfortunately, if predictably, Russia rejected the U.S. suggested language as “totally unacceptable” and withdrew its draft statement.  The language Russia rejected is:

“The members of the Security Council also condemned the Syrian government’s continued, indiscriminate use of heavy weaponry against
civilians, including its February 18 launch of ballistic missiles in residential areas of Aleppo and February 21 airstrikes that hit a field hospital in Dera’a.  The members of the Security Council called upon all sides of the conflict to respect international law.”

The United States condemns all terrorist attacks against civilians and diplomatic facilities.  However, it is unacceptable to the United States that the UN Security Council not also express its outrage at the heinous, sustained attacks on innocent civilians that the Syrian regime continues to launch on a daily basis.

A cynic might view this episode as Moscow simply trying to turn the tables on the USA for forcing it to veto three separate resolutions on Syria. Moscow now gets the opportunity to grandstand and make the USA look like it’s the one blocking international consensus on Syria.  This is totally disingenuous, but makes for good PR.

Meanwhile, UN-Arab League envoy Lahdhar Brahimi — and before him, Kofi Annan — have stressed that a diplomatic solution to this conflict is only possible if the Security Council is unified behind a single effort. This little spat is an unfortunate reminder of just how far we are from international consensus on Syria.