Failing to move Russia, EU and US slam Syria at UN

Mandate for UN observer force in Golan Heights renewed for another 6 months with support of all 15 council members.

By REUTERS
July 1, 2011 06:10
3 minute read.
The United Nations Security Council [file]

UN Security Council_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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UNITED NATIONS - Europe and the United States heaped criticism on Syria at the United Nations on Thursday after failing to persuade Russia to support condemning Damascus for its crackdown on anti-government protesters.

The occasion was the renewal of the mandate for a UN observer force in the Golan Heights. As expected, a resolution renewing the mandate for another six months until the end of this year received unanimous support from all 15 council members.

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Normally the mandate renewal for the four-decade old force, known as UNDOF, is a routine event without fanfare or controversy. This year the situation was different as US and European Union diplomats tried to include language condemning Syrian "human rights abuses" in the initial US-drafted text.

Russia, backed by China, threatened to veto UNDOF's mandate renewal if such language was included. In the end, the resolution expressed "grave concern at the serious events that occurred in UNDOF's area of operations on 15 May and 5 June [Nakba and Naksa Day riots] that put the long held ceasefire in jeopardy."

Although it referred to the Golan Heights incidents, in which a number of Palestinian protesters were killed, it made no mention of the Syrian crackdown against demonstrators, which human rights activists say resulted in over 1,300 civilian deaths since the uprisings began in March.

"The question of Syria and the renewal of UNDOF's mandate are two distinct issues," Xinhua news agency quoted Wang Min, deputy permanent representative of the Chinese Mission to the United Nations, as saying.

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"They should not be linked together so as to avoid complicating and politicizing the renewal of UNDOF's mandate," Wang added.

"Israel deeply appreciates the work of UNDOF," Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor told the UN Security Council.

Deputy US Ambassador to the United Nations Rosemary DiCarlo said that Syria had engineered the Golan Heights protests, which the Syrian government said resulted in the deaths of 23 people, as a "transparent ploy" to divert attention from its brutal crackdown on demonstrators.

Deputy British Ambassador Philip Parham said Damascus has ignored calls for it to heed calls for change and reform.

"Instead, they have met legitimate demands for reform with brute force in which an estimated 1,400 people have died in the last 3 months," he said. "This is completely unacceptable."

French Deputy Ambassador Martin Briens also condemned what he said were Syria's "hypocritical" attempts to "divert international attention away from the aspirations of its own people on whom it is inflicting a bloody crackdown."

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari dismissed the criticism of his country, saying his government was committed to reform and was not cracking down on innocent protesters.

"Some extremists have started using violence and bearing arms against law-and-order forces and against innocent Syrian citizens, including peaceful demonstrators," he said, adding that these were "internal developments that have nothing to do with the Security Council."

Russian Deputy Ambassador Alexander Pankin made clear Moscow had not budged on the topic of Syria, long a close Russian ally, and saw no need for council action.

"Syria is not on the agenda of the Security Council because it is not a threat to international peace and security," he said.

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