Saturday

18th Aug 2018

EU countries cautiously welcome Russian UN text on Syria

  • Leaked map of Syria's air defences. Chizhov: 'The last thing we want is a repetition of [Libya-type intervention] in Syria' (Photo: James L'Angelle)

EU countries have criticised a Russian draft UN resolution on Syria for morally equating security forces and rebels, but say the text can go through "with amendments."

Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin circulated the paper to the 14 other UN Security Council (UNSC) members - including France, Germany, Portugal and the UK - in a surprise move on Thursday (15 December).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The text - seen by Reuters and the Washington Post - condemns "disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities" and "urges the Syrian government to put an end to suppression of those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association."

It calls for an "end to all violence and provocations" by "all parties" and "[condemns] the activity of extremists groups, including attacks against state institutions [and] law enforcement personnel." It also criticises "illegal supply of weapons to the armed groups in Syria" and says neighbouring countries should "take necessary steps to prevent such supplies."

Churkin told press in New York: "We do believe that it's not only the authorities but also extremist opposition forces who are causing damage and killing people."

EU countries and the US cautiously welcomed the development, which marks an end to Russia and China's months-long veto on UN action.

The Russian text is disliked for equating the rebel Free Syrian Army and Syrian National Council with President Bashar Assad's security regime. It also leaves Russia free to keep selling arms to Syria while blocking alleged smuggling of arms to rebels via Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.

French UN ambassador Araud told press the draft is "unbalanced" and needs "a lot of amendments." German envoy Peter Wittig said: "To put the Syrian authorities and the peaceful demonstrators and the opposition on the same level is totally unacceptable."

UK ambassador Michael Tatham and US secretary of state echoed the line. Clinton said the "seeming parity between the government and peaceful protesters" is "unfortunate."

Russia's move comes hot on the heels of two reports highlighting atrocities by the Syrian regime.

UN human rights envoy Navi Pillay on Monday noted that Assad's forces have killed more than 5,000 people in the past nine months and said "crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed."

Human Rights Watch named 74 Syrian officers involved in murder and torture of civilians in a study out Thursday. It quoted army defectors, such as one sniper in Homs who was ordered to kill 15 to 20 people out of every 5,000 protesters in a crowd. "These abuses constitute crimes against humanity," it said.

Security specialists in the EU diplomatic service have told EUobserver that Assad's position in the country is much stronger than some analysts believe.

"Syria is still a slow burner," one contact said. "The question remains whether Assad will in the end seek refuge externally or go out with a bang." Another contact said it is a "genuine problem" that if Assad falls, it will tip the balance of power in the region, giving Sunni-Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia the upper hand against Shia-Muslim Iran in a situation that could provoke future conflicts.

For his part, Russia's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov on Monday told reporters in Brussels that Nato countries' regime change in Libya crossed red lines by excessive bombing of Gaddafi forces, arms transfers to rebels and special forces' "boots on the ground."

"The last thing we want is a repetition of this in Syria," he said.

A Reuters report out Friday indicated that Nato countries waged war in Libya for the sake of oil interests as well as humanitarian concerns.

The story quoted a senior source at Libya's national oil company, NOC. as saying that oil firms linked to Nato countries - BP, ConocoPhillips, Eni, Exxon Mobil, Galp, OMV, Repsol, Saras, Shell and Total - will get "priority" in crude oil sales next year.

EU firms in Iran caught between US and Europe

European companies with business in Iran appear caught in a tug of war between the European Union and Washington. The US demands they leave Iran or face sanctions. The European Union says remain in Iran or face penalties a home.

News in Brief

  1. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants
  2. Merkel confronts far-right critics: '2015 will not be repeated'
  3. UN: Predictable disembarkation process urgently needed
  4. Slovenia set to select former comedian as prime minister
  5. Polish president to veto election rule helping big parties
  6. MEPs blast UK 'alphabetical approach' on citizens rights
  7. EU hits back over Salvini's blame for bridge collapse
  8. Poll: Sweden's social democrat-led government set to win again

Opinion

Has the time finally come for 'European champions'?

Since Emmanuel Macron took the French presidency in 2017, the concept of consolidating European industries to create continental 'champions', capable of competing on a global scale, has been revived.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  2. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  3. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life
  4. Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs
  5. Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism
  6. Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50
  7. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  8. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us