Syria resolution reaches UN assembly after veto

Saudi Arabia circulates Arab League plan through General Assembly; new draft also supports calling on Assad to quit.

February 11, 2012 01:49
2 minute read.
General Assembly

General Assembly. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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UNITED NATIONS - Saudi Arabia circulated a draft resolution backing an Arab peace plan for Syria among members of the UN General Assembly on Friday after a similar text was vetoed in the Security Council last week by Russia and China, diplomats said.

The new draft appeared as two advisers to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon repeated a warning that Syrian government attacks on civilians could amount to crimes against humanity.

Like the failed council resolution, the assembly draft "fully supports" the Arab League plan floated last month, which among other things calls for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step aside to help end 11 months of violence in the country.

Russia and China cast their vetoes in the council last Saturday saying the draft there was unbalanced and failed to blame Syria's opposition, along with the government, for violence that has killed over 5,000 people, according to UN figures.

There are no vetoes in the General Assembly. The 193-nation body's resolutions have no legal force, unlike those of the Security Council, but were the Syria text to pass it would add to pressure on Assad and his government.

The assembly is due to discuss Syria on Monday, when it will be addressed by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay. Diplomats said the resolution was not expected to be voted on then, but that there could be a vote later next week.

The assembly draft, seen by Reuters, broadly follows the one voted down in the council. While calling for an end to violence by all sides, it lays blame primarily on the Syrian authorities, whom it strongly condemns for "continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms."

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The draft urges accountability for those guilty of human rights violations, but makes no specific mention of the International Criminal Court, to which Pillay has said Syrian officials should be sent. Only the Security Council can refer Syria to the court - an unlikely move given its divisions.

In one addition to the council text, the assembly draft invites Secretary-General Ban to appoint a special envoy for Syria - a proposal that Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby put to the UN chief earlier this week.

In a statement, Francis Deng, Ban's adviser on prevention of genocide, and Edward Luck, his adviser on the responsibility to protect, said they were alarmed by Syrian security forces' "indiscriminate fire" on densely populated areas of the city of Homs.

Reiterating a warning from last July, they said such attacks could constitute crimes against humanity under international law. "The presence of armed elements among the population does not render attacks against civilians legal," they said.

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