8th May 2021

EU softens Syria resolution in bid for UN support

  • Phoenix mural in UN Security Council chamber in New York. A vote is expected on Friday (Photo: United Nations Photo)

EU countries have indicated there will be no military action in Syria and called for protesters not to attack security forces in the latest draft of a UN Security Council resolution.

France and the UK circulated the text in New York on Wednesday (8 June), some 10 days after the initial version. Foreign ministries in various time zones are digesting the paper, with a vote expected on Friday.

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The new draft adds a clause saying "the only solution to the current crisis in Syria is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process." It also cuts a line saying the UN is "determined to prevent an aggravation of the situation."

The changes are designed to allay concerns in Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Russia that the UN move is a prelude to military action as in Libya.

The new version voices regret about "violence against security forces" and it "calls upon all sides to act with utmost restraint ... and refrain from reprisals."

It also cuts a previous line urging Syria to abolish its High Security Court and it takes out a reference to the reported discovery of a mass grave in the southern Syrian town of Deraa.

The draft resolution still speaks of credible reports of "crimes against humanity", in a sign that Syrian officials could in future face legal action in The Hague. And it asks for access for UN investigators to look into the allegations.

The legally non-binding text "Calls upon all states to ... prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Syria of arms and related material of all types." It warns Syria not to attack the town of Jisr al-Shughour, and says it must release prisoners of conscience and implement reforms.

The EU needs nine positive votes in the 15-member Security Council and no vetoes to get it through.

Russia is the biggest problem. It is widely believed China will only use its veto if Russia takes the flak for blocking the text by coming out with its veto first. Positive reactions by Brazil, India and South Africa would make it harder for Russia to act alone. Lebanon - not a veto power - is expected to vote against the resolution out of fear of its powerful neighbour.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron speaking to parliament in London on Wednesday threw down the gauntlet to Moscow. "If anyone votes against that resolution or tries to veto it, that should be on their conscience," he said.

US state deparmtent spokesman Mark Toner the same day told press in Washington that the UN move "may or may not" stop Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad from killing more people: "It's part of a broader effort, I think, to build the pressure on al-Assad."

He ruled out any creep toward Libya-type intervention: "There's not a one-size-fits-all strategic approach to these situations ... these are unique situations, unique cases."

For his part Philippe Bolopion, Human Rights Watch's man in the UN, told EUobserver: "The complete silence of the Security Council so far is inexcusable and can only embolden the Syrian authorities in the brutal crackdown against their own people."

EU countries are meanwhile preparing a third round of EU-level sanctions against al-Assad.

An EU diplomatic contact told this website that internal talks will begin this week on a list of entities and companies "which provide funding or other support to the regime." The new list is to be ready in time for a meeting of EU foreign ministers on 23 June.

Full text of new draft Syria resolution

The Security Council, 
Expressing grave concern at the situation in Syria and condemning the violence and use of force,

Welcoming the Secretary-General's statements articulating continued concerns about the on-going violence and humanitarian needs, and calling for an independent investigation of all killings during recent demonstrations,

Welcoming also the G8 statement of 27 May 2011, and other regional and bilateral diplomatic efforts to address the deteriorating situation in Syria,

Welcoming further Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/RES/S-16/1 of 29 April 2011, including the decision to request the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to dispatch a mission to Syria to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law and to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated, with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring full accountability,

Considering that the widespread and systematic attacks currently taking place in Syria by the authorities against its people may amount to crimes against humanity,

Expressing concern at the reports of shortages of medical supplies to treat the wounded, caused partly by deliberate prevention of such supplies by the Government of Syria, and at the reports of numerous civilians trying to flee the violence,

Echoing the Secretary-General's concern at the humanitarian impact of the violence on a number of Syrian towns, and fully supporting the UN's humanitarian assessment mission to Syria,

Recalling the Syrian authorities' responsibility to protect its population, and to allow unhindered and sustained access for humanitarian aid and humanitarian organisations,

Underlining the need to respect the freedoms of peaceful assembly and of expression, including freedom of the media and access for international media,

Stressing that the only solution to the current crisis in Syria is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process, noting the stated intention of the Government of Syria to take steps for reform, regretting the lack of progress in implementation, and stressing the need for the Syrian Government to implement reforms fully,

Stressing also the need to hold to account those responsible for attacks, including by forces under the control of the Government of Syria, on peaceful protesters and other individuals,

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria,

Concerned by the continuing deterioration of the situation in Syria and the potential for further escalation of the violence,

Further concerned by the risks to regional peace and stability posed by the deteriorating situation in Syria, and mindful of its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security under the Charter of the United Nations,

1. Condemns the systematic violation of human rights, including the killings, arbitrary detentions, disappearances, and torture of peaceful demonstrators, human rights defenders and journalists by the Syrian authorities, and violence against security forces, and expresses deep regret at the deaths of hundreds of people;

2. Demands an immediate end to the violence, and for steps to address the legitimate aspirations of the population, and calls upon all sides to act with utmost restraint, respect human rights law and international humanitarian law, and refrain from reprisals;

3. Calls upon the Syrian authorities to:

(a) immediately lift the siege of affected towns, including Jisr al-Shughour and Deraa, restore medical, fuel and electricity supplies and communications, and allow immediate, unfettered and sustained access for international human rights monitors and humanitarian agencies and workers;

(b) implement reforms aimed at allowing genuine political participation, inclusive dialogue and effective exercise of fundamental freedoms, immediately release all prisoners of conscience and arbitrarily detained persons, and immediately lift restrictions on all forms of media; and;

(c) launch a credible and impartial investigation in accordance with its international obligations and hold to account those responsible for attacks against peaceful demonstrators, including by forces under the control of the Syrian Government, and co-operate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights mission as set forth in Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/RES/S-16/1 of 29 April 2011;

4. Calls upon all States to exercise vigilance and prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Syria of arms and related materiel of all types;

5. Requests the Secretary-General to report on implementation of this resolution within 14 days of its adoption, and every 30 days thereafter;

6. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

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