UN Syria draft makes concessions to Russia: diplomats

2nd February 2012, Comments 0 comments

A new draft of a UN Security Council resolution aimed at ending violence in Syria leaves out an explicit call for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, in a concession to Russia, diplomats said Thursday.

While the revised document, drafted after negotiations between envoys from the Security Council's 15 members, "fully supports" an Arab League plan for a political transition, it no longer includes the plan's explicit call for an Assad exit or other details on a shift to democracy in Syria.

The Arab plans envisaging Assad's transfer of power to his deputy and the formation of a unity government "are not made explicit in the latest draft, but it is very clear what they are referring to," a Western diplomat said, alluding to the doubts that led Russia to vow it would veto any "unacceptable" proposal.

The draft, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, said the Security Council "fully supports in this regard the League of Arab States 22 January 2012 decision to facilitate a political transition leading to a democratic plural political system" in Syria.

But details about how powers would be transferred from Assad to his vice president no longer appear in the text.

"We don't know what the Russians will come back with today... we'll have to see when people reconvene this afternoon," a diplomat said.

"The question is to find the words," the diplomat added. "We could not agree to a language that is not supportive of the Arab League plan."

The US State Department stressed such support was vital.

"We are looking for a resolution that strongly supports the Arab League plan," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

"Our understanding is that the draft that we will see later today is very much in that vein."

According to the draft, the council "demands that the Syrian government immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against those exercising their rights to freedom of expression."

It added that the council "condemns all violence, irrespective of where it comes from, and in this regard demands that all parties in Syria including armed groups, immediately stop all violence or reprisals."

Moscow, a long-standing Assad ally and one of his top arms suppliers, has declared that the UN body does not have authority to impose a resolution that calls for regime change in Syria, a position supported by China.

Russia has stressed from the beginning of negotiations that the council not prejudge the outcome of a democratic transition in Syria by demanding that Assad cedes power.

The draft resolution supports the decision taken on January 22 to extend the Arab League observer mission in Syria, which has been criticized for lacking teeth.

The observer mission was suspended shortly afterward due to worsening violence. Arab ministers will meet February 11 to review the suspension.

The diplomatic wrangling at the United Nations came as fierce clashes across Syria killed 59 people on Wednesday, mostly civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

© 2012 AFP

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