UN General Assembly condemns security council


INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE:THE UNITED Nations General Assembly voted by a large majority in New York yesterday afternoon to condemn its own security council for failing to end the war in Syria as fighting rages.

The non-binding resolution was passed by the assembly by 133 votes to 12, with 31 abstentions.

The move was clear evidence of global frustration with the key, permanent members of the security council: the US, Britain, France, Russia and China. These, along with other members of the council, have been unable to agree a common position on Syria, indulging instead in what former UN secretary general Kofi Annan termed “finger-pointing and name-calling” as he resigned on Wednesday his position as envoy to Syria.

His departure dismayed some members of the political opposition in Damascus.

Mouna Ghanem, spokeswoman for Building the Syrian State, said: “I expect there will be a rise in the violence as people might think any chance of a peaceful solution has gone. Internationally it is now the responsibility of Russia and the US to sit together and find a solution for their problem over Syria.

“It is high time to talk about a mediation group, conflict resolution specialists [that would] come to the country.”

George Jabbour, former member of the Syrian parliament, said Annan’s resignation was expected because he was unable to make progress in his mission. However, he said, if he had not undertaken the task, the death toll “might have been much higher”.

Mr Jabbour called on US president Barack Obama and Russian president Vladimir Putin to stop the bloodshed.

In London, British foreign secretary William Hague described Mr Annan’s resignation as “a bleak moment” to which he said Britain would respond by giving the rebel side more support, short of arming them.

“Given the scale of death and suffering and the failure so far of the diplomatic process, we will, over the coming weeks, increase our practical but non-lethal support. It will not involve sending armaments,” he said.

There needed to be fundamental change in Syria, he said. “Diplomacy has so far failed the people of Syria. We do not give up on the diplomacy with Russia and with China. We will keep going with that as long as this situation continues but we will have to do other things as well.”

In New York, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, the envoy for Saudi Arabia, which was the driving force behind the resolution, urged the assembly to maintain its moral and humanitarian values by approving it.

However, Syria’s envoy, Bashar Jaafari, said Saudi Arabia and co-sponsor of the resolution Qatar could not themselves be considered oases of human rights.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, told the assembly the reported brutality in Aleppo, Syria’s second city and commercial capital could amount to crimes against humanity.

“As we meet here, Aleppo . . . is the epicentre of a vicious battle between the Syrian government and those who wish to replace it . . . The acts of brutality that are being reported may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes. Such acts must be investigated and the perpetrators held to account,” he said.

He repeated that he intended to replace Mr Annan when he departs formally at the end of this month.

“Despite repeated verbal acceptances of [Mr Annan’s] six-point plan endorsed by the UN Security Council, both the [Syrian] government and the opposition continue to rely on weapons, not diplomacy, in the belief that they will win through violence,” he said.

“But there are no winners in Aleppo today, nor anywhere else in the country. The losers in this escalating battle are the people of Syria,” he added.