Wednesday

21st Apr 2021

EU countries push for UN resolution on Syria

  • Assad poster in Damascus old town. Juppe: 'It is inconceivable that the UN remains silent on such a matter' (Photo: oliverlaumann)

The UK and France have put forward a draft UN Security Council resolution urging Syria to stop killing protesters, but China and Russia are wary of the move.

British foreign minister William Hague told national MPs on Tuesday (7 June) that the text does not call for sanctions or authorise military intervention, as in Libya: "Britain has circulated a draft ... calling for the Syrian government to meet their people's legitimate demands, release all prisoners of conscience, lift restrictions on the media and internet and co-operate with the UN high commissioner for human rights."

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He noted: "The house will appreciate that a resolution is not in our gift, and needs the support of nine UN Security Council members and no vetoes." He also said: "We are exploring with our European partners the potential for further sanctions if the violence continues."

Speaking at a UN event on Aids in New York the same day, French foreign minister Alain Juppe said: "It is inconceivable that the UN remain silent on such a matter ... I think it is a question of days, maybe hours [until the vote]."

French diplomats have noted that the build-up to military action in Libya began with resolution 1970 in February imposing sanctions on Gaddafi before resolution 1973 in March mandated air strikes.

Russia's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday that Moscow is against any 1973-type move on Syria.

He said: "The prospect of a UN Security Council resolution along the same lines as 1973 on Libya will not be supported by my country." He added: "We believe all these situations require political solutions. I am not sure that sanctions are an effective tool in this situation, and, of course, as Libya has shown, the use of force does not provide answers."

China's UN ambassador, Li Baodong, told press at the Aids meeting in New York: "We do not think the involvement of the Security Council will help the situation there."

President Bashar al-Assad's forces have killed more than 1,100 people since unrest began two months ago, according to Syrian human rights organisation Sawasiah. Human Rights Watch in a study on 1 June entitled 'We've never seen such horror' said "systematic killings and torture ... [may] qualify as crimes against humanity."

The internal conflict is threatening to spill over into neighbouring countries.

People are fleeing the northern town of Jisr al-Shughur for Turkey as government troops prepare a large-scale assault. Beirut-based journalist Robert Fisk says the Turkish army has drawn up plans to send "several battalions" into northern Syria to create a 'safe zone' designed to stop ethnic Kurds from going to Turkey.

Israel has complained to the UN that Syria is inciting Palestinian refugees to cause trouble on the contested Israel-Syria border in order to divert attention. Several Palestinians were killed in a border incident on 5 June. Syrian state-run newspaper, Tishrin, says up to 600,000 Palestinians could try to cross the border in future.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Iran has warned Western powers to stay out.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday: "I condemn the meddling of the US and its allies in Syrian affairs." The UK's Hague the same day told MPs that "Iran is ... [giving] equipment and technical advice to help the Syrian regime crush protests in Syria."

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