The U.N. Security Council tonight issued a statement that "condemned in the strongest terms" Syria's shelling of the Turkish town of Akcakale -- an attack that killed five civilians, all of them women and children -- and voiced their "sincerest condolences" to the Turkish government and the families of the victims.
The statement, which was backed by Russia and China, marked the first time that the U.N. Security Council has weighed in on the situation in Syria since July 19, when Moscow and Beijing vetoed a resolution threatening sanctions against Damascus.
The 15-nation council reached agreement on the text after more than a day of intensive talks that pitted Russia against the United States and other Western powers.
Moscow, which has served as Damascus's closest ally on the council, sought to strip out any language that directly accused the Syrian government of responsibility for the mortar strike, which triggered a series of retaliatory artillery strikes against Syrian targets.
Russia's U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin also sought to remove any characterization of the Syrian action that might serve as a trigger for deeper Security Council involvement in a crisis. Churkin also sought to include a provision calling on both Syria and Turkey to show restraint.
The final statement was softened somewhat to accommodate some of Russia's concerns. For instance, it does not directly conclude that Syria's action constituted a threat to internationalpeace and stability.
Instead, it merely noted that the mortar attack "highlighted the grave impact the crisis in Syria has on its neighbors and on regional peace and stability." The statement demands that "such violations of international law stop immediately and are not repeated," but while it issues a call for restraint it doesn't specify who needs to exercise restraint.
Churkin, meanwhile, said he would be back in the council tomorrow to press for a condemnation of a deadly bomb attack in Syria's second city, Aleppo, which targeted a Syrian officers club and left more than 30 people dead.
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.