A car bomb exploded in Damascus on Feb. 21 near the headquarters of Syria’s ruling Baath Party. It also happened to be a stone’s throw from the Russian embassy. The suicide attack killed more than 50 people.
On those facts, everyone can agree.
Still, in a bitter exchange between its spokespeople carried out over e-mail, the U.S and Russia blamed each other for failure to agree on a basic and toothless United Nations Security Council statement condemning the terrorist act.
The incident painfully underlines the UN’s two-year paralysis over a conflict that has left 70,000 dead and offers further proof of how bad relations between the two super-powers have become.
Here it is how it played out, virtually.
At 6:49 p.m., the Russian press office — which very rarely communicates — sent around an e-mail accusing the U.S. of blocking its proposed statement on the attack, which the Russians say caused severe damage to their embassy’s housing compound and chancellery:
“We consider unacceptable this search for justifications for terrorist actions.”
The Russians then took it a step further, taking a swipe at the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, on the U.S. compound:
“It is obvious that by doing so the U.S. delegation encourages those who have been repeatedly targeting American interests, including US diplomatic missions.”
The U.S. mission to the UN didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment. The response came a day later when its spokeswoman, Erin Pelton, issued a tersely worded statement.
The Russian assertion is false, she said.
“The U.S. had requested an addition to the statement to also call out the Syrian government for its continue use of heavy weaponry against civilians,” Pelton said. “Unfortunately, if predictably, Russia rejected the U.S. suggested language as ‘totally unacceptable’ and withdrew its draft statement.”
Russia has vetoed three resolutions to hold President Bashar al-Assad largely responsible for his country’s descent into chaos. The last attempt was July 19. Since then, the UN has been a spectator on the sidelines to the ongoing carnage.