West demands changes to Russia's Syria UN resolution

16th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Western nations on Friday pressed Russia to change a proposed UN Security Council resolution condemning the Syria crackdown, setting the scene for tough negotiations between the main powers.

While European nations and the United States on the council have said they want talks, France reaffirmed that it considered Russia's text to be "totally unbalanced".

The United States has also signaled it wants changes to the draft resolution that Russia surprising put to other members of the 15-nation council on Thursday.

The UN says President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on opposition protests has left 5,000 dead since mid-March. But Russia and China vetoed a European resolution on Syria in October, accusing the western powers of making the first steps toward regime change.

Western nations say the new Russia text is not tough enough on the Damascus government.

France's UN envoy Gerard Araud called the Russian text a "maneuver."

Russia "gives the appearance of movement while presenting a text which is totally unbalanced and which is empty," he said in a live Internet chat session with French newspaper Le Monde.

The proposed resolution strongly condemns violence by "all parties, including disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities."

It also raises concern over "the illegal supply of weapons to the armed groups in Syria," according to a copy obtained by AFP.

The resolution has some supporters on the council. India's UN ambassador, Hardeep Singh Puri, said it was "just the kind of resolution we have said we would support" but he acknowledged that many countries had suggested changes.

European and US envoys have insisted that the government crackdown and opposition attacks cannot be put on the same level.

They say there has to be stronger condemnation of rights violations by the Assad government and stronger support for Arab League action against Syria, including its sanctions.

All the western powers have stressed however that they want to negotiate. "We want to work together on a way forward," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.

Western diplomats said they were waiting for follow-up talks, but Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said his delegation would not be calling for negotiations before Monday.

"It will take time for (western nations) to absorb the significance of the developments," Churkin told reporters, referring to the initial negative comments on the Russian text.

"It is perhaps telling that the Russians have not called follow-up talks if this is such an important move," one western diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Araud said it was uncertain how long negotiations could take.

"Negotiations on a resolution can take a few hours or a few months. Everything depends on the desire of the Russians to accept our amendments," he said.

Western nations hope meanwhile to keep up diplomatic pressure on Syria with a General Assembly vote on Monday on Syria's crackdown.

© 2011 AFP

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