Russia is asking the U.N. Security Council to condemn the illegal sale of Syrian oil by terrorist groups and encourage all countries to take “necessary measures” to prevent it. A draft presidential statement circulated to council members and obtained Monday by The Associated Press expresses “grave concern” at the seizure of oilfields in Syria by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra and stresses that any export or import of crude oil without authorization of a sovereign state is illegal.
Presidential statements are a step below resolutions and must be approved by all 15 council members. Diplomats said council experts would likely meet Tuesday to discuss the draft. If approved, it would not require countries to take action, and there would be no enforcement, but it would reflect the view of the U.N.’s most powerful body.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Thursday that as ISIL advances there is a real prospect of a terrorist state springing up from Syria’s second-largest city Aleppo to Iraq’s capital Baghdad. He said there are many reports that ISIL is selling oil from captured fields and indicated this was taking place in both Syria and Iraq — but the draft does not mention Iraq. Some diplomats said they want to see what evidence Russia has of ISIL and other terrorist groups selling oil, and whether this has spread into Iraq as well.
ISIL made significant headway recently in Syria’s eastern oil-rich province of Deir el-Zour, seizing towns and villages in heavy fighting against the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front and other Islamic rebel groups. In the past weeks, it has also captured huge tracts of neighboring Iraq. The draft statement recalls the resolution adopted by the Security Council in March condemning the illicit export of crude oil from Libya and authorizing U.N. member states to board suspect vessels and return illegally seized oil to the Libyan government.
The council acted three days after U.S. Navy SEAL commandos seized a tanker off Cyprus containing Libyan oil that a militia controlling the country’s oil terminals was trying to export in defiance of the central government. The draft statement notes that oilfields in control of terrorists generate one of their main sources of income “which supports their recruitment efforts and strengthens their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks.”