WASHINGTON – Olympic fever has made it all the way to the UN General Assembly in New York, where Israel’s ambassador on Friday declared Syria the victor in falsehoods.
“Over the course of several debates, the Syrian representative has managed to take the art of fabrication in this hall to new heights. If lying was an Olympic event, I have no doubt that the Syrian regime and its representatives could easily win a gold medal,” Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor charged during a session that saw the General Assembly censure Damascus.
A total of 132 countries joined Israel in approving the Saudi-drafted resolution during Friday’s special session.
Twelve countries, including Russia and China, voted against it, and 31 abstained.
The resolution expressed “grave concern” at the escalation of violence in Syria and condemned the UN Security Council, “deploring the failure of the Security Council to agree on measures to ensure the compliance of Syrian authorities with its decisions.”
It also called for “an inclusive Syrian- led political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system,” and expressed “concern at the threat by the Syrian authorities to use chemical or biological weapons.”
Russia and China have routinely blocked more aggressive Security Council action to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop killing civilians and opposition groups whom he has been battling for 17 months.
No country has veto power over the non-binding General Assembly statements, and Friday’s resolution included much of the language in previously vetoed Security Council resolutions.
Though the General Assembly move lacks power, it was seen by Western powers as an important sign of Syria’s isolation and a means of shaming Russia and China.
“This vote shines the spotlight on Russia and China and humiliates them in a way that they don’t like,” a UN diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Britain’s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters after the vote that a “colossal majority” supported the resolution, which had been revised to remove language explicitly backing Arab League calls for Assad to step down and urging states to implement sanctions against Damascus.
But the resolution still welcomes an Arab League decision calling for Assad to step aside, without giving details of that decision.
Those revisions secured the support of dozens of countries that might have opposed it otherwise, UN diplomats said.
Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi said “the number of votes in favor has exceeded all of our expectations.”
Prosor also slammed Syria for its chemical weapons and warned about their potential use.
“We should not pretend that a regime that cuts the throats of children today will not be prepared to gas them tomorrow,” he said. “Assad must know that he will be held accountable for using these weapons.”
In addition, Prosor pointed to Iranian involvement in what is happening in Syria, a close ally of Tehran.
“On the ground, Iranians are assisting Assad’s henchmen,” he charged.
“The outside forces that have been instrumental in the slaughter in Syria speak in a Persian accent. Unfortunately, many in the international community do not yet acknowledge this fact, despite the overwhelming evidence that supports it.”