United Nations Security Council 311 (R).
(photo credit: ERIC THAYER / Reuters)
BEIRUT - Russia offered the UN Security Council a new, stronger draft
resolution on the violence in Syria Thursday, lifting Western hopes of
UN action after the killing of 27 Syrian soldiers by deserters raised the specter of a slide into civil war.
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envoys said the Russian text was too weak, but they were willing to
negotiate over it, offering the council a chance to overcome its
deadlock and issue its first resolution on Syria's nine-month-old
crackdown on protesters.
activist group said Syrian army deserters killed 27 soldiers on
Thursday in and near the southern city of Deraa, in some of the
deadliest attacks on forces loyal to President Bashar Assad since the
uprising against his rule began.
The Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights said 12 soldiers were killed in Deraa, where protests against
Assad first erupted in March, and 15 at a checkpoint east of the city.
high casualties among security forces suggested coordinated strikes by
army rebels who have escalated attacks, raising fears that Syria might
be slipping towards civil war.
The draft circulated
unexpectedly by Russia on Thursday expands and toughens Moscow's
previous text, adding a new reference to "disproportionate use of force
by Syrian authorities."
The draft, obtained by Reuters, also "urges the Syrian government to put
an end to suppression of those exercising their rights to freedom of
expression, peaceful assembly and association".
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters it "considerably strengthens
all aspects of the previous text" and that "clearly the Syrian
authorities are singled out in a number of instances".
Russia did not believe both sides in Syria were equally responsible for
violence, but acknowledged it called on all parties to halt violence and
contained no threat of sanctions, which he said Moscow continued to
Western officials welcomed the Russian move, but French Ambassador Gerard Araud said it needed "a lot of amendments."
Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she could not
support some parts of the draft, but "hopefully we can work with the
Russians, who for the first time at least are recognizing that this is a
matter that needs to go to the Security Council."
British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said Russia might hold the
key to tightening sanctions on Syria, but Britain would also look at
ways of imposing new sanctions on Damascus through the European Union.
will continue to look for new ways in energy, in transport, as well as
financial restrictions, to put pressure on the Syrian regime," Burt told
Reuters in a telephone interview.
A report published by Human
Rights Watch on Thursday, based on interviews with dozens of Syrian
defectors, said army commanders had ordered troops to use "all means
necessary" to halt protests, often giving explicit instructions to open
A sniper in Homs said his commanders ordered that a
specific percentage of demonstrators should die. "For 5,000 protesters,
for example, the target would be 15 to 20 people," he told Human Rights
HRW identified 74 commanders who had ordered,
authorized or condoned killings, torture and unlawful arrests during the
anti-government protests. "These abuses constitute crimes against
humanity," it said, calling on the United Nations Security Council to
refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.