Syria says Israel aims to torpedo peace

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Syria’s U.N. ambassador said on Wednesday that Israel’s motive in flying warplanes into its airspace was to torpedo the peace process, but he did not make a specific request for the U.N. Security Council to meet.

Israel has refused to comment on the air strikes on September 6 but U.S. officials have confirmed them. Analysts say likely targets were weapons caches Iran may have sent through Syria for Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas.

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari warned the Security Council and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in letters on Tuesday, of consequences for the region and denounced Israel for a “flagrant defiance of international law.

“We think the Israeli purpose behind such an aggressive act is to torpedo the peace process, to torpedo the idea of holding an international conference,” Ja’afari told reporters.

“So the issue in itself might not be a pure military one but having a very important diplomatic and political background,” he added.

Asked why he did not call for a Security Council meeting, Ja’afari said it was not his job to do so. Instead he said he wanted to inform the 15-member body about Israel’s action so they could “assume their responsibility in the maintenance of peace and security.”

“If they don’t act appropriately, then it would be a jungle law and there would be no need for the Security Council. ”

But the usual procedure for a council reaction is a request from the secretary-general or any U.N. member nation, and none has yet emerged. “If Syria had wanted a reaction of the council, they would have said so in a letter,” a council member said. 

One possible reason for the lack of council action is that no one is certain what happened. Syria, in its letter, said Israeli aircraft “dropped some munitions but without managing to cause any human casualties or material damage.” Israel has not said if it hit anything.

Asked about Hezbollah’s weapons, Ja’afari said, “This is blah, blah. This is nonsense, this is an unfounded statement. It is not up to the Israelis or anyone else to assess what we have in Syria.”

“There was no target,” he added. “They dropped their munitions. They were running away after they were confronted by our air defence.”

Ja’afari said the purpose of his letter also was to warn the Israeli government “about the consequences of such an irresponsible act perpetrated against our sovereignty and to let the Security Council know that.”

Asked if he would take the issue to the General Assembly, the ambassador said it was too early to consider that.

Israeli planes last struck Syria in 2003 across a border that remains tense but largely quiet some 34 years after the last war between the two neighbours ended in an edgy cease-fire.