French President François Hollande says Moscow must stop supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as the West rejects a Russian-drafted UN resolution aimed at halting Turkey's military actions in northern Syria.
“Russia will not succeed by unilaterally backing Bashar al-Assad. It's not possible, we all see it. Because there will be no results on the ground, there won't be negotiations and there will always be war,” Hollande told France Inter radio on Friday.
He added that "there must be pressure on Moscow” so that it helps resume Syria peace talks.
The latest round of talks between the Syrian government and the Saudi-backed opposition -- known as the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) -- which was being held in the Swiss city of Geneva, was suspended on February 3 after the opposition refused to attend the sessions. The next round was slated for February 25; however, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said on Friday that the resumption of the talks on the planned date is not realistic.
On February 12, the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) agreed in the German city of Munich to seek a nationwide ceasefire in Syria beginning in a week's time. It also decided to accelerate and expand humanitarian aid deliveries to the country. According to the ISSG statement, the truce in Syria does not include areas held by groups designated as terrorist organizations by the UN Security Council, including Daesh and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.
Russia began its air campaign in Syria on September 30, 2015 at the request of the Damascus government. The air raids have expedited the advances of Syrian forces against foreign-backed militants operating in the country.
'Risk of Turkey-Russia war'
Regarding Ankara’s escalating involvement in the Syrian crisis, the French president said it was creating a risk of war between Turkey and Russia.
Ankara has been targeting the positions of fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its umbrella group Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria for nearly a week in an attempt to stop Kurdish forces from reaching the Syrian border with Turkey, while Syrian forces have been making steady gains.
Turkey is also among the few countries insisting that the only way to stop the war in Syria is to deploy ground forces in the Arab country’s northern regions.
"Turkey is involved in Syria... There, there is a risk of war," Hollande told France Inter radio. "That is why the Security Council is meeting," Hollande noted.
The Security Council held an emergency meeting on Friday afternoon at Moscow's request to discuss Syrian-related developments, including the Russian-drafted resolution calling on the council to express "its grave alarm at the reports of military buildup and preparatory activities aimed at launching foreign ground intervention into the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic."
It also called on countries to "refrain from provocative rhetoric and inflammatory statements inciting further violence and interference into internal affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic."
The draft was, however, rejected by the representatives of France, the US and Britain at the meeting.
"Russia must understand that its unconditional support to Bashar al-Assad is a dead end, and a dead end that could be extremely dangerous," French Ambassador to the UN François Delattre said ahead of the meeting.
"We are facing a dangerous military escalation that could easily get out of control and lead us to uncharted territory," he added.
US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said Russia is "trying to distract the world" with the draft resolution, calling on Moscow to focus on implementing a UN resolution agreed by the 15-member council in December last year that endorsed an international road map for a Syria peace process.
The resolution, adopted on December 18, called for a nationwide ceasefire in Syria and the formation of a “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian” government within six months and UN-supervised “free and fair elections” within 18 months.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to a new report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.