The U.N. Security Council overcame deep divisions to unanimously approve a statement Thursday condemning Syria’s shelling of a Turkish town that killed five women and children “in the strongest terms.”
Council members managed to bridge differences between the strong statement demanded by the United States and its Western supporters and backed by their NATO ally Turkey, and a weaker text pushed by Russia, Syria’s most important ally, after negotiations that began late Wednesday and continued through Thursday.
In the press statement, which needed approval from all 15 council members, the U.N.’s most powerful body said the incident “highlighted the grave impact the crisis in Syria has on the security of its neighbors and on regional peace and stability.”
It also extended condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Turkey.
The council demanded an immediate end to such violations of international law and called on the Syrian government “to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbors.” Russia’s agreement that the Syrian shelling violated international law was a key concession by Moscow.
The original Western-backed draft, proposed by Azerbaijan, condemned the shelling “in the strongest terms” and called it a violation of international law. Proposed Russian amendments never mentioned any breaches of international law, so the inclusion in the final text was a concession by Moscow.
Earlier Thursday, Syria’s U.N. envoy said his government is not seeking any escalation of violence with Turkey and wants to maintain good neighborly relations.
Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari said the government hasn’t apologized for the shelling from Syria because it is waiting for the outcome of an investigation on the source of the firing.
He read reporters a letter he delivered to the Security Council that sent Syria’s “deepest condolences” to the families of the victims “and to the friendly and brotherly people of Turkey.”
It urged Turkey and its other neighbors to “act wisely, rationally and responsibly” and to prevent cross-border infiltration of “terrorists and insurgents” and the smuggling of arms.
During Thursday’s negotiations on the text when the outcome was still in doubt, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters “we think it’s very important that the council speak clearly and swiftly to condemn this shelling.”