Foreign Minister Murray McCully has launched a broadside against Russia and the Security Council in New York this morning, saying it was an indictment on the Security Council that it had once again failed to stop innocent people being killed.

In a speech at a Security Council meeting of foreign ministers this morning, Mr McCully said that the meeting, chaired by Russia, had failed to come up with a resolution or even agreement on a Presidential statement on Syria.

"We will not stop the fighting. Sadly this is symbolic of the dysfunction and mistrust that has characterised this Council's performance on Syria and too many of the conflicts that rage in the region. And it must stop."

McCully speaks to media outside the UN in New York after his statement to the Security Council. Photo / Claire Trevett
McCully speaks to media outside the UN in New York after his statement to the Security Council. Photo / Claire Trevett

Speaking to media afterward he said it was astonishing that in a week in which many countries' leaders and foreign ministers were in New York for the General Assembly the best the Security Council could do was have a discussion.

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"I just wanted to call it as it is. The Security Council is failing in its obligations and talking about the issue of terrorism, as important as it is, actually we've got a first obligation to stop people being killed. It's a pretty serious indictment on the Security Council and I thought we should say so."

Russia is chairing the Security Council for September and called the debate on cooperation in fighting terrorism in the Middle East and Africa. However, the meeting coincided with Russia confirming it had begun air strikes in Syria at the request of the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Mr McCully said that undermined Russia's role as chair on the Council in which it had called the debate on cooperation against terrorism in Syria. He said Russia's role as chair gave them a special responsibility to find a way to address the issues.

"To be frank on a day when the Russians themselves were calling for this Security Council debate, to have airstrikes start with no warning and no clarity about what was actually being hit wasn't the most helpful sequence of events." He would not speculate on whether it was deliberate timing.

Mr McCully said there were competing narratives between the US and Russia and New Zealand had tried to steer a middle path to ensure a transition in Syria which did not not result in the collapse of its institutions. That would involve the players already in the region - including Syria's leader Bashar al-Assad. However he did not believe there should be impunity for the Assad regime from any responsibility for mass atrocities.

New Zealand campaigned on the need for reform of the Security Council during its bid to get a seat on it. Prime Minister John Key is expected to make the same call in his address to the General Assembly tomorrow.