David Shearer –
This is a critical time for Syria.
For many months, the residents of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, have been subject to bombardment and artillery killing, wounding thousands of people.
At a time of year when many families were together to share special food and company to celebrate Eid Al Adha (celebrated on September 11), supply lines from Turkey to the families, hospitals and schools in Aleppo were either stopped, or reduced to a mere trickle through the Syrian government blockades.
Now, with the destruction of 17 United Nations Aid trucks and the killing of aid workers by what was almost certainly aerial bombing, times for the people of Syria have become even more desperate.
They are going without the most basic items of food and clothing, with no immediate prospect of relief.
They also face the horror of barrel bombs, artillery shells and poisonous gas being fired into their mainly civilian areas. We’ve all seen the horrific pictures on TV of children wounded and battered – shocked and traumatised from what is happening to them in their homes.
UN solution evades
The meeting of the Security Council, chaired by New Zealand, which held the presidency and chair of the Security Council for September, failed to come up with a solution.
The problem was not with the Security Council itself, but with the members: notably Russia and the United States of America. If they cannot come to a consensus on the way forward, it blocks any hope of the Security Council collectively being able to arrive at a resolution.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key chaired the Security Council during the annual leaders’ week when world leaders come to New York.
It was New Zealand’s decision to make Syria the focus of our month of presidency.
That was the right choice.
We needed to give Syria every chance to reach a peaceful settlement.
As I witnessed when I worked as a humanitarian aid worker, civilians are often used as political pawns during conflict.
Their plight can be exploited for military or political gains.
Our UN Security Council role is a fundamental area where bipartisan agreement occurs across the main political parties in New Zealand.
We all want New Zealand take a lead role and make a real difference in the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
Unfortunately, given the events of the last fortnight – the bombing of the humanitarian convoy and the mistaken bombing of Syrian government troops by the US-headed coalition – the conflict continues.
Nevertheless, I am proud New Zealand made its best effort, throughout September, to cut through those agendas and hold those leaders to account who seek to make political gains at the expense of children facing daily bombardment.
New Zealand worked as hard as it could to bring an end to the suffering and will continue to do so.
David Shearer is an elected Member of Parliament from Mt Albert in Auckland and Labour Party’s spokesman for Foreign Affairs.