UN Security Council poised to threaten Syria's Assad - with Russia's blessing
The United Nations Security Council secured Russia's critical backing yesterday for a statement backing envoy Kofi Annan's peacemaking plan. The step marks a distinct shift in Russia's stance.
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After months of inaction on Syria because of the opposition of veto-wielding members Russia and China, the United Nations Security Council is poised to approve a draft statement backing a new peacemaking effort to end the violence.
The draft expresses “full support” for special envoy Kofi Annan’s peacemaking efforts and warns Damascus of “further steps” by the UN if it doesn’t meet UN demands “in a timely manner,” Reuters reports. Mr. Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, is acting as envoy for both the UN and the Arab League.
The Security Council members spent Tuesday negotiating the text of the draft, easing the demands on the Syrian government to secure Russia’s approval. A previous version that threatened further UN action if Damascus did not comply within seven days was rejected by Russia as an ultimatum, according to Reuters.
If no one on the council raises further objections before 9 a.m. EST today, the draft will be automatically adopted, Voice of America reports. China has indicated its support, reports Xinhua. The draft includes a call for a cease-fire, dialogue between the government and opposition, and total access for humanitarian work.
Russia has steadfastly stood between the UN and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime since the uprising began a year ago, vetoing along with China two previous resolutions. If Moscow goes along with this draft statement, it will be a “diplomatic blow” to Russia's ally Assad, according to Reuters.
Yesterday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a pre-recorded interview for Russian radio station Kommersant FM that the Assad regime has made many mistakes. "We believe that the Syrian leadership responded incorrectly to the very first manifestations of the peaceful protests. The Syrian leadership – despite the numerous promises it has made in response to our calls – is making a lot of mistakes. Unfortunately this is why the conflict is so acute," Mr. Lavrov said, according to RTT, which characterized his remarks as representing a "distinct shift" in Russia's position.
Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition has faced several setbacks in the last month, with government troops wresting control of the cities of Homs and Idlib, two rebel strongholds. Yesterday, the Free Syrian Army, an armed wing of the opposition, had to flee the city of Deir al-Zour amid a government assault, Bloomberg reports.