UN vote due on Syria resolution

Tue, Oct 4, 2011, 01:00

European countries are expected to vote today on a UN resolution that would consider sanctions if the Syrian government does not immediately halt its military crackdown against civilians.

Diplomats said it was unclear whether Russia, which opposes even mentioning the possibility of sanctions against president Bashar al-Assad’s regime, will veto or abstain on the resolution.

The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday the vote is likely to take place late this afternoon although contacts between key capitals were still taking place.

If approved, it would be the first resolution against Syria adopted by the council since Dr Assad’s military began its crackdown in mid-March against protesters.

Although the mass demonstrations have shaken one of the Middle East’s most authoritarian regimes, the opposition has made no major gains in recent months and holds no territory. The regime blames the unrest on armed gangs and claims security forces are the real victims.

The UN estimates that more than 2,700 civilians have died since the uprising began.

The security council issued a presidential statement in August condemning the escalating violence after months of arguments between supporters and opponents of Dr Assad’s regime.

Immediately afterwards, the Europeans, backed by the United States, pressed for a legally binding council resolution calling for an immediate arms embargo and other sanctions aimed at stopping the Assad government’s crackdown on protesters.

But Russia, China, India, South Africa and Brazil were opposed, partly because of fear that the resolution might be used as a pretext for armed intervention against Syria.

They argue that the UN resolution authorising the use of force to protect civilians in Libya was misused by Nato to justify months of air strikes against Muammar Gadafy’s regime - and they oppose any possible repetition in Syria.

Early last week, the Europeans presented a new draft resolution that dropped the immediate imposition of sanctions.

Instead, it expressed “determination” to review within 30 days Syria’s compliance with the resolution’s demands.

They include immediately ending all violence, allowing fundamental rights and freedoms including free expression and peaceful assembly, lifting all media restrictions and allowing unhindered access for human rights investigators.

If Syria had not complied, the draft expressed the council’s determination “to consider the adoption of targeted measures, including sanctions”.

After the Russians rejected it, the Europeans came back with a new text on Thursday that watered down the sanctions language further.

The current draft, which is expected to be put to a vote, drops the words “including sanctions,” but leaves in “targeted measures” - which can include sanctions.

It also “strongly condemns the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing and persecution of protesters and human rights defenders, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment of detainees, also of children.”

It expresses “profound regret at the deaths of thousands of people including women and children,” calls for the release of all political prisoners and peaceful demonstrators, and demands that Syrian authorities immediately stop violating human rights and stop using force against civilians.

The arms embargo in the original draft is gone. Instead, the latest draft calls on all states “to exercise vigilance and restraint over the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Syria of arms and related material”.

It expresses deep concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria and the potential for a further escalation of violence and reaffirms the need to resolve the crisis peacefully, calling for “an inclusive Syrian-led political process conducted in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation, and extremism”.

AP