France and Spain pledged Friday to launch a new effort at the UN Security Council for action to stop barrel bomb attacks in Syria, which rights groups describe as a leading killer in the war.
The council adopted a resolution in February 2014 demanding an end to the bombings that the West says are carried out by the Damascus regime using helicopters to drop barrels rigged with explosives on civilian districts.
But there has been no action to enforce the measure by the council, where veto-wielding Russia has blocked resolutions targeting President Bashar al-Assad.
During a meeting on Friday, council members heard three human rights groups describe the heavy toll from barrel bombing and appeal for action to stop the violence.
“The international community is, with a single voice, saying ‘Stop Barrel Bombs’,” said Spanish Ambassador Roman Oyarzun Marchesi following the meeting.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre said the meeting was the “starting point in the process for us to use every option, tool, venue at our disposal” to end the attacks.
The ambassadors, however, did not specify which measures may be under consideration and it remained an open question whether Russia would allow steps that would punish the Damascus regime.
Some 6,589 people have been killed by barrel bombs in the war, now in its fifth year, and more than half of those — 3,831 — have died in attacks carried out since the resolution last year, according to Human Rights Watch.
– Desperate for action –
Barrel bomb attacks are not only “ongoing, but in many areas have intensified,” said Nadim Khoury, a deputy director from Human Rights Watch.
The people of Syria are “desperate for the Security Council to give meaning to its words,” he said.
“What we are expecting are not more words. We are expecting follow up measures” such as sanctions and an arms embargo,” he added.
Pressure has been mounting on the Security Council to overcome its divisions and work to end the horrific violence in Syria as the United Nations marks its 70th anniversary.
The conflict has claimed about 230,000 lives, with some 70 dying on average per day, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura told the council meeting in a video message.
Last week, 70 countries signed a letter to the Security Council, expressing outrage over the use of barrel bombs and demanding an end to attacks targeting civilians.
It called on the Security Council “to advance its efforts” on preventing the Syrian air force from carrying out barrel bombings.
The letter, organized by Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, was signed by European countries, Canada and the United States, and regional powers including Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Neither China nor Russia made the list.