In an evening announcement made on January 26, the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations indicated that the UN Security Council will meet today (27 January) at 3 pm to discuss a new draft resolution on the situation in Syria. The draft was written by France and Britain in consultation with Morocco, Qatar (non-Council member), the United States, Germany, and Portugal. Morocco, the only Arab state on the Council, reportedly called for the meeting to be held after briefing Council members, including Russia and China, on 26 January with the new draft resolution.
According to Reuters, a vote could come on the draft resolution as early as next week, as it appears that Nabil Elaraby, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, and Sultan Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, the Qatari Prime Minister and chair of the League’s Syria committee, will present the newest Arab League peace plan at the Security Council on 31 January.
The draft resolution follows the recent Arab League plan, adopted on 22 January in Cairo, which calls on President al-Assad to immediately relinquish power to a deputy to pave the way for a peaceful transition through negotiations with the opposition, the formation of a unity government, and the holding of transparent elections with Arab and international monitors. The plan was rejected outright by the Syrian government.
The draft resolution also expresses “grave concern at the deterioration of the situation in Syria”, and:
- Condemns the continued widespread and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities;
- 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, peaceful assembly and association, protect its population, fully comply with its obligations under applicable international law and fully implement the Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions;
- Demands that all parties in Syria immediately stop all violence or reprisals;
- Recalls that all those responsible for human rights violations, including acts of violence, must be held accountable;
Including the provisions for a political roadmap, the resolution also demands that the government withdraw all military and security forces from cities and towns, release all arbitrarily detained persons, and guarantee the freedom of peaceful protesters.
All eyes are on the Russian delegation at the Security Council, who has stood by President Assad over the course of the eight month uprising. On top of the recent reports of the selling of 36 combat aircraft to the regime, Russia also vetoed a Security Council resolution on 4 October 2011, and has vehemently opposed sanctions and any form of military intervention.
Initial reports suggest that Russia does not support the new draft resolution, with the Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov calling it “unacceptable” and stating that it contains “no fundamental consideration for our position” and is missing “key aspects that are fundamental to us”. Discussing the possibility of a vote on the resolution in the Council, Itar-Tass News Agency quoted Gatilov as saying, “As for the voting (in the UN Security Council), we believe it impossible for us to vote for an uncoordinated draft resolution.”
As reported in Bloomberg, Russia vowed to block any resolution that calls for President al-Assad to relinquish power earlier this week:
Such demands “will simply never get approval,” Alexander Lukashevich, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said by telephone from Moscow today. “This should be a matter for dialogue between the Syrians themselves and shouldn’t be imposed through a resolution.”
Confirming that the new joint Western-Arab state draft resolution could be a “tough sell”, according to Reuters the same spokesman quoted above said that Russia will continue to actively promote its own draft resolution to the Security Council, which it circulated on 15 December 2011.
According to a report from Security Council Report’s What’s In Blue, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa are also cautious towards the draft resolution. While the BRICS agreed to a similar peace proposal on the situation in Yemen in which the government and opposition agreed, their perspectives allegedly differ on the situation in Syria because President Assad has not agreed to the Arab League proposal to begin a political transition. What’s In Blue suggests that divisions may also deepen on the Council regarding a provision on the draft resolution which threatens future measures in “consultation with the League of Arab States” if Syria does not comply with the resolution within 15 days.
Despite the concerns from the BRICS bloc, according to Reuters UN reporter Louis Charbonneau, Western Council Members and the Arab League have moved beyond the Russian draft in the wake of the League’s newest proposal:
The new draft will replace a Russian text, which Western diplomats say is too weak and no longer relevant in light of the Arab League call for Assad to hand power to his deputy.
Similarly, an Agence France-Presse report states:
Russia has since proposed its own resolution, but there have hardly been any negotiations on the bid, which Western countries have said is unbalanced. A Western diplomat said Friday’s meeting “would be the response of a number of countries to the Russian resolution and the veto in October.”
As reports of a massacre in Homs emerged earlier today, it seems from above that this afternoon’s Security Council discussion on the new draft resolution will continue to be characterized by the rift between Russia and Western and Arab states on how to respond to the situation in Syria. As crackdown continues and the death toll soars, Council members must work to break this deadlock and move to uphold the responsibility of the international community to protect Syrian populations.
Update (27/01/2012 @ 7:00 PM EST): According to the BBC’s Barbara Plett, both Russia and China expressed their skepticism of the joint Western-Arab states’ draft resolution during Council consultations, with China asserting that Syria could not follow the Libya model. While noting that Russia was not opposed to continuing negotiations at the Council, Colum Lynch of the Washington Post reported on the Russian delegation’s “red lines”, which included no arms embargo, sanctions, or imposition of a political solution by the Arab League.
At the post-consultation media stakeout, French Permanent Representative Ambassador Gerard Araud affirmed his country’s position that the Arab League’s plan was the only way forward, and that a vote on a resolution was expected within one week. Ambassador Araud did, however, stress the need for consensus within and amongst Council members, which was echoed by Germany’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Peter Wettig, at the stakeout. Syria’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari, also spoke to the stakeout, speaking out strongly against the Western and Arab states that supported the draft resolution. Ambassador Ja’afari insisted that his government did not support the Arab League’s recent proposal.
However, reporters from Al Jazeera (Benjamin Moran) and the BBC (Barbara Plett) reported that negotiations will continue on the draft resolution on 30 January at 3:00 pm EST, ahead of the presentation to the Security Council by the Secretary-General of the Arab League and the Prime Minister of Qatar on 31 January, with negotiations continuing on 1 February. More to follow.
Update (27/01/2012 @ 6:00 PM EST): According to a Reuters report, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, expressed his “deep disappointment” with the joint Western-Arab states’ draft resolution. Churkin rejected imposing an outside solution on Syria, and stated that Russia continued to oppose sanctions, an arms embargo, and the use of force to respond to the crisis.
Update (27/01/2012 @ 5:00 PM EST): Security Council consultations on the draft resolution have adjourned for the day, which will be followed by a media stakeout.
Update (27/01/2012 @ 4:00 PM EST): Germany’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations posted Permanent Representative Ambassador Peter Wettig’s statements ahead of the Security Council’s afternoon meeting on the joint Western-Arab state draft resolution on Syria:
“I think we have the chance today to open a new chapter on Syria as I said at the beginning of this week. The decisions of the Arab League last week-end could be a game- changer and now we can turn a new page here today. It’s necessary because the situation in Syria is grim and it becomes more dramatic every day…Today we are going to hear here my Moroccan colleague presenting an Arab-European draft to address the situation in Syria. And the philosophy of the draft is basically to support the Arab League’s initiative and give it the necessary weight of the Security Council. So we hope now that Council’s members see this as a new window of opportunity that we have to find common ground.”
Update (27/01/2012 @ 3:00 PM EST): The closed-door Security Council consultations began at 3 p.m. EST, with the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom tweeting that the Permanent Representative of Morocco introduced the draft resolution to the Council.
Follow this site and our Twitter account for further updates.