Applause for Albania: Using the UN Security Council to stand up to dictators like Putin and Assad

By Dr. Moustafa Aouthmany

Since taking a seat on the United Nations Security Council last year Albania has clearly and concisely displayed political courage on multiple issues affecting vulnerable and powerless populations around the globe.

Syrians who have fought against Bashar al-Assad for more than a decade have taken notice and thank Tirana for providing what the world direly needs these days ‒ a nation that fights for what is right.  

For months Albanian diplomats have done just this in New York City, where the U.N. Security Council regularly convenes. There, they have harshly criticized Assad and his chemical weapons program and stood up to Russia in the process.  

“Twelve years ago, peaceful demonstrations demanding justice, freedom, and dignity in Syria were met with the brutal methods of a regime that has proved, over the years, to be second to none for its cruelty against its own citizens,” Albania’s U.N. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha recently said.

A corrupt, murderous dictator whose family has ruled Syria for more than 50 years, Assad is responsible for killing nearly 600,000 people and displacing half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million. One of Assad’s preferred tactics — just as Mr. Hoxha noted — is terrorizing his own people with chemical weapons.  

So hellish was a 2013 sarin gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus – it killed more than 1,700 people — that Washington threatened airstrikes in response. That horrific event forced the world’s leading global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), to monitor Syria. Fitting with Assad’s criminal mind, his regime has blocked inspectors from this organization for years.

Meanwhile, at the U.N. Security Council, Russia often jumps to Syria’s defense. This spring Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, dismissed the OPCW as an “instrument” of the West that targets Syria. This is typical Russian behavior towards Syria. Its dictator President Vladimir Putin has spent billions to keep Assad in power, allowing Russian troops to indiscriminately bomb Syrian civilian targets and test vile new weapons.  

Thankfully, Albania is unafraid of Assad, Putin and Russia’s veto-wielding status on the Security Council.

On the same spring day that Russia dismissed the OPCW, Albania’s U.N. Political Coordinator, Arian Spasse, countered that Syria’s behavior was “troubling and deplorable” and that “we (the U.N.) must see to it that the use of chemical weapons does not go unpunished.”

Albania’s courage to confront Russia and Syria has shined in multiple ways, including earlier this year after February’s devastating earthquakes in northwest Syria and Turkey — which killed almost 46,00 people in Turkey and more than 6,000 in Syria.  

While Assad attempted to slow the flow of humanitarian aid to suffering people, Advisor Sasse reminded the Security Council that Syria is the “killing field drenched in the innocent blood of civilians” and that humanitarian aid must never be politicized.

Albania also worked with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to create an official mechanism to account for the more than 100,000 Syrians who have disappeared during the war. While Russian lackeys Venezuela and Belarus argued against the plan, Ambassador Hoxha gave it a vigorous defense.

“More than 100,000 Syrians arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, have forcibly disappeared,” he said. “Albania strongly supports the establishment of a new body to clarify the fate and whereabouts of all missing persons with the involvement of survivors and families of victims in all stages of this process.

In September, Albania resumes the Security Council presidency. Several of Syria’s Arab neighbors, including Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE, have recently normalized relations with Damascus. In May, the Arab League also officially welcomed the dictator back into the fold after banning him for 10 years.  

Brothers and Sisters of Albania, we call on you to remain the voice of moral courage on the issue of Syria and vulnerable people. When you have the presidency of the U.N. Security Council at your disposal — use it. Keep the pressure up on Assad and Putin.  

Dr. Moustafa Aouthmany is a Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Specialist from Michigan and board member of C4SSA.