New resolution on Syria on UN table
On Thursday, Germany, France and Britain submitted a new draft resolution on Syria to the UN, a document that calls for the condemnation of human rights abuses in this Western Asian country. Signaling their support for the resolution were the United States, Japan, Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Qatar.
This time the West decided to use the UN General Assembly’s mechanism. On October 4, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution which was tabled by Western countries in September and which condemned government crackdown on the Syrian opposition. Moscow and Beijing have repeatedly warned against slapping new sanctions on Syria which they said might further exacerbate the situation. It seems that the West has taken into consideration these warnings because the new draft resolution was circulated to the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee, which typically issues non-binding resolutions. At the same time, Western diplomats hope that Arab countries’ backing the resolution will eventually help prod Security Council members to impose stiffer sanctions against Syria.
In a separate development on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the international community to put pressure both on Damascus and the opposition in order to stop violence and start a fully-fledged dialogue. He blamed some opposition activists for fueling inter-ethnic tensions and collaborating with Syria’s immediate neighbors, including Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan from where weapons were being smuggled to the Syrian opposition.
Also on Thursday, a group of renegade soldiers attacked government buildings in Syria which was the second such attack in two days. In this connection, Sergei Lavrov said the following.
"I saw TV reports about attacks by a certain new force known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) on Syrian Armed Forces buildings, Lavrov says. The attacks were very similar to a real civil war," he adds.
On Wednesday, six government soldiers were killed and dozens more injured when FSA fighters attacked the Air Force Intelligence building on the outskirts of Damascus. Earlier, the FSA announced that it had formed a temporary supreme military council to oust President Bashar Assad’s regime. Meanwhile, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner has questioned Moscow’s likening the latest developments in Syria to a civil war.
In this vein, experts say that they do not exclude a repeat of the Libyan scenario in Syria. Turkey and Arab countries, for their part, warned against a foreign intervention in Syria, urging the country’s authorities to immediately stop the bloodshed. Qatari Foreign Minister Hamid Bin Jassim reminded that the Arab League wants Damascus to adopt the “roadmap”.
"To avoid an international intervention, Bin Jassim says, we mapped out a relevant draft resolution which stipulates sending Arab League monitors to Syria, where they will deal with Syrian authorities’ implementation of the Arab League’s “roadmap” for settling the crisis."
Russia also shares Arab countries’ concerns about a possible outside interference in Syria’s domestic affairs. Earlier, Moscow signaled its readiness to back the Arab League’s settlement plan which envisages the withdrawal of army troops from the cities, the release of political prisoners, the cessation of violence by all the sides to the conflict and the beginning of a dialogue.
Syria’s opposition Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Riad El Shaqfa in turn warned the Assad regime against continuing to clamp down on the opposition.
"If we fail to find a diplomatic solution to the problem, the Syrian people will prefer an interference by Arab countries and Turkey to a military intervention by NATO and the United States. We estimate that the Assad regime will be deposed before the end of this year," El Shaqfa says.
Meeting with Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Thursday, Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also urged the resignation of the Syrian President – something that was opposed by the top Russian diplomat. Lavrov warned that the Arab League’s proposal might prove pointless if the Syrian opposition continued demanding the ouster of Bashar Assad as the only precondition to the beginning of its dialogue with Damascus.