New Zealand has urged the United Nations Security Council to bring an urgent halt to attacks on the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.

Permanent representative to the UN Gerard van Bohemen addressed the UNSC overnight after New Zealand tabled a joint resolution for a resumption of a ceasefire in Syria.

New Zealand hopes to get a vote on the resolution - which is co-sponsored by Spain and Egypt - before the end of the week.

Speaking at the UNSC, van Bohemen said the resolution aimed to "cut through the politics and the polemics" to focus on making a practical difference on the ground in Aleppo.


The council had remained "largely silent" on the Syrian conflict as the fighting had become "ever crueller and more brutal", he said.

"Often we have been prevented from acting, or even speaking, due to the inability or unwillingness of some of the council's most powerful members to move beyond the politics and vested interests.

"This has prevented the council from putting in place measures that would have saved lives."

Syria's people had "paid a terrible price" for the council's inaction, he said.

The joint resolution asks for UNSC member countries to reduce the violence in Syria; restore a ceasefire; enable humanitarian assistance to those most in need; and allow space for political talks on ending the conflict to take place.

It was the "minimum" required for a credible response from the council, van Bohemen said. On its own, the resolution would mean little unless countries involved in the conflict urgently changed their behaviour.

Van Bohemen also defended the resolution against potential concerns that a ceasefire could work in favour of terrorists who were holed up in eastern Aleppo. Sacrificing the lives of civilians could not be justified by "waving the banner of counter-terrorism", he said.

The Syrian Government launched an assault on rebel-held areas of the city in September, backed by Russian air support and Iranian-backed militias, a week into a ceasefire agreed by the US and Russia.

Two resolutions on Syria, tabled by France and Russia, were voted down last month. France had called for an end to aerial bombardment of Aleppo.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully said yesterday that New Zealand's resolution would not fix the Aleppo situation. But it was important to put pressure on the countries responsible for the violence to change their behaviour, he said.

"The presence of a few hundred Al-Nusra terrorists in Eastern Aleppo does not justify an all-out attack on more than 250,000 civilians, the bombing of every hospital in the city, and cutting off the population from aid and outside assistance."