Russia, China boycott UN council talks on Syria
Russia and China boycotted UN Security Council talks on a draft resolution condemning Syria's deadly crackdown on opposition protests, diplomats said Monday.
European powers stepped up their campaigning meanwhile for the resolution with one top envoy saying the delay in Security Council action has cost hundreds of lives in Syria.
Russia and China strongly oppose UN action against President Bashar al-Assad and could veto any resolution. "They knew about Saturday's talks but they chose not to turn up," said a council diplomat.
Britain, France, Germany and Portugal first distributed a resolution condemning the Syrian military crackdown two weeks ago.
Confident they have nine votes on the 15 member Security Council they are now focusing, with US support, on lobbying Brazil, South Africa and India who have also expressed reservations. Lebanon has said it will oppose the resolution.
The Europeans believe that if they can get a strong enough majority in favor it would increase pressure on Russia and China not to use their right to veto the measure. Britain, China, France, Russia and United States are permanent members of the council who can veto any resolution.
Highlighting how negotiations have lasted more than two weeks, France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud said: "In that time 400 people, including women and children, have died, sometimes under torture. Thousands of refugees have fled Syria."
Araud made his comments to a leading newspaper in Brazil, one of the countries the Europeans hope to sway.
"Let us be clear, Security Council inaction is not an option. Everyone must mobilize together and we are counting on Brazil. The Syrian people need the Security Council now."
"It is a fierce, brutal repression for which we cannot remain a silent accomplices," Araud told Estado da Sao Paulo newspaper.
Asked about Brazil's attitude to the European proposition, Araud highlighted how the government has already condemned the violence and called for political moves by Assad.
"We sincerely hope that Brazil's vote will reflect this support given to the democratic aspirations of the Arab people," the ambassador added.
The French envoy said that Brazil's reluctance to back the resolution arose from disagreements over NATO air strikes in Libya. Brazil, India and South Africa say that NATO is going past UN Security Council resolutions in carrying out the strikes against Moamer Kadhafi.
"It is not because we have disagreements on this dossier that we should ignore the massacres which are being carried out in Syria," said Araud.
Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Moualem said in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the proposed resolutions against his country "constitute flagrant intervention in the internal affairs of Syria and an attempt to destabilize it."
Moualem called on the Security Council not to "hastily adopt a position that will provide a cloak for the murderous, destructive gangs" which the regime has blamed for the violence.
He said any resolution would "exacerbate the situation and send a message to those extremists and terrorists to the effect that the deliberate destruction that they are wreaking has the support of the Security Council."
Moualem said Syria "has declared its determination both to carry out reforms and to maintain absolute national independence and sovereignty."
© 2011 AFP