Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, president of the U.N. Security Council for March, said on Monday that ‘assurances’ from Moscow on a rapprochement with the United States on the conflict in Syria did not happen.
He made clear that Russia still has major differences with the U.S. especially after it recently announced its support for providing non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition forces.
Churkin also spoke about the security situation between Syria and Israel and said the Jewish state was being threatened by “a very new and dangerous phenomenon” of armed groups operating in a so-called area of separation in the Golan Heights between the countries.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war. Syrian troops are not allowed in the area of separation under a1973 ceasefire formalized in 1974. Israel and Syria are still technically at war. The area is patrolled by U.N. peacekeepers.
“It’s something which potentially can undermine security between Syria and Israel,” Churkin told reporters, adding that the U.N. peacekeeping force, known as UNDOF, was unable to cope with the situation.
“Unfortunately there is nothing in the UNDOF mandate that allows them or equips them to deal with that situation because they are unarmed observers,” Churkin said.
Israel will not 'stand idle'
Israel warned the U.N. Security Council that it could not be expected to “stand idle” as Syria’s civil war spills over its border, while Russia accused armed groups of undermining security between the states by fighting in a demilitarized zone.
Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor wrote to the 15-member council to complain about shells from Syria landing in Israel.
“Israel cannot be expected to stand idle as the lives of its citizens are being put at risk by the Syrian government’s reckless actions,” Proser wrote. “Israel has shown maximum restraint thus far.”
Israel does not have a reputation for being idle. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that an attack on a Syrian arms complex on Jan. 30 showed Israel was serious about preventing the flow of heavy arms into Lebanon, appearing to acknowledge that the Jewish state carried out the strike.
The United Nations says more than 70,000 people have been killed during a two-year revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which began as peaceful protests but turned violent when Assad’s forces cracked down on the demonstrations.
With nearly 1 million Syrian refugees flooding neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon as the conflict worsens, the United Nations has warned that the fighting has developed sectarian overtones and could engulf the region.
The U.N. Security Council has been deadlocked on Syria since2011 over Russian and Chinese refusal to consider sanctions against Assad’s government. They have vetoed three resolutions condemning Assad’s crackdown on the opposition groups.