UNITED NATIONS - A European push for the UN Security
Council to condemn Syria's violent crackdown on anti-government protesters was
blocked on Wednesday by resistance from Russia, China and Lebanon, envoys
"There will be no statement," a Security Council diplomat told
Reuters on condition of anonymity.
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Instead, Western countries called a
public debate on Syria, but the meeting highlighted differences in the 15-nation
council, with Russia charging that it was outside interference in Arab countries
that could be a threat to peace.
After meeting for an hour behind
closed doors, the situation in the Middle East was brought before an open
chamber Wednesday evening. The UN representative of Syria was invited to
participate, as was UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs, Lynn
Pascoe opened the meeting’s public session by saying he had been
briefed by both confidential and public sources. “They are increasingly calling
for the downfall of the regime, echoing slogans that have been heard elsewhere
in the region,” he said of the Syrian protesters.
Pascoe spoke of Syrian
President Bashar Assad’s efforts to respond to demonstrators, but added that
“despite the promise of reform, the government crackdown intensified
dramatically” – noting that over one hundred people were thought killed over the
Pascoe alluded to the unreliability of news coming from the
region due to the circumstances, but cited reported shortages of food, water and
medicine in the area.
“This could become a major humanitarian issue in
the coming days,” Pascoe said.
The Security Council’s late afternoon
meeting Wednesday was slated to discuss a draft statement from Germany, France,
Portugal and the UK – which would call on Assad to prosecute those behind the
violence against demonstrators, and to exercise restraint.
the body to respond in some way to Syria’s actions against demonstrators was
ramped up by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who issued a statement Tuesday
saying that he is watching events in Syria with “increasingly grave
“I condemn, utterly, the continuing violence against peaceful
demonstrators – most particularly the use of tanks and live fire that have
killed and injured hundreds of people,” Ban said. “It goes without saying that
Syrian authorities have an obligation to protect civilians and respect
international human rights.
“That includes the right to free expression
and peaceful assembly. The High Commissioner for Human Rights and I agree: There
should be an independent, transparent and effective investigation. I remain
convinced that only an inclusive dialogue and genuine reform can address the
legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and restore peace and social order,”
Calling the violence used by Syria’s government against
its own people “abhorrent and deplorable,” US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice
said Tuesday night that the US condemns Syria’s violence “in the strongest
“The outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an
end – and now,” Rice said. “The Syrian Government’s actions to repeal the
decade’s old emergency law and allow for peaceful demonstrations were clearly
not serious given the continued violent repression against
Rice said the US, among others, is currently pursuing a
range of policy options – including, but not limited to, sanctions.
the Security Council’s European members continue to push the body to adopt the
statement condemning Syria’s violence toward protesters, they are expected to
face opposition from Lebanon, China and Russia.
Russia and China view
Syria’s protests as an internal matter that should be handled
Meanwhile, China’s ambassador to the UN, Li Baodong, has
called for a “political solution” to end the crisis.
Lebanon is a
long-time ally of Syria, and is expected to vote against any condemnation of
Russia in particular has evinced signs of fatigue regarding Middle
East actions, and has expressed apprehension about air raids on Libya, and
similar future Middle East scenarios.
“The Syrian people’s call for
freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and to choose their
leaders freely must be heard,” Rice said. “We strongly oppose the Syrian
government’s treatment of its citizens and we continue to oppose its continued
destabilizing behavior more generally – including support for terrorism and
Rice characterized it as “disingenuous” for Syria to
blame outsiders for its unrest, while simultaneously seeking Iranian assistance
in repressing its citizens.