The U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee on Thursday adopted a Saudi-drafted resolution condemning Iranian and Russian intervention in Syria, a decision that the Syrian and Iranian delegations rejected as unhelpful and unjustified.
The non-binding resolution, authored by Saudi Arabia and co-sponsored by Qatar and other Arab nations, the United States and other Western powers, was adopted by the 193-nation assembly's Third Committee. There were 115 votes in favor, 15 against and 51 abstentions.
Without explicitly naming Russia, it said the General Assembly "strongly condemns all attacks against the Syrian moderate opposition and calls for their immediate cessation, given that such attacks benefit DAESH and other terrorist groups, such as the Nusra Front."
The resolution's language is clearly aimed at Russia, which has been bombing opposition forces in Syria for two months. Moscow says it is attacking DAESH but Western officials say its strikes have mainly targeted other rebel forces, including Western-backed groups.
The resolution also condemned the presence in Syria of "all foreign terrorist fighters … and foreign forces fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime." Saudi Arabia's U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi urged U.N. member states to support the resolution, invoking the memory of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian refugee whose body washed up on a Turkish beach in September. "I appeal to you not to let Aylan down," he said. "Do not kill him twice."
Syria's U.N. ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari, rejected the resolution and accused its Saudi authors of hypocrisy about what he said are widespread human rights in the kingdom. He referred to "decapitation and flogging in public squares," saying they were like abuses of DAESH. Iran's deputy U.N. representative, Ambassador Gholamhossein Dehghani, also rejected the resolution. He said it blurred the clear distinction between "terrorists with those who fight against them."
The resolution demands foreign militias leave Syrian territory immediately. It also harshly rebukes DAESH and other militant groups for rights abuses and atrocities. But most of the criticism in the resolution is aimed at the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russia and Iran whom Western and many Arab nations would like to see ousted and blame for the nearly five-year civil war.
Russia began launching airstrikes on Sept. 30 in an intervention Moscow says is aimed at destroying DAESH militants but which Washington says is also targeting moderate rebels opposed to Assad. According to the U.N., at least 120,000 people were displaced in Aleppo, Hama and Idlib governorates – the center of the Russian-backed Assad regime offensive – in October. More than 6 million Syrians have already been displaced due to the conflict.