Russia ready to engage on UN Syria resolution

Euro-Arab draft resolution "unacceptable," but there is room to engage; dozens break into Syrian embassy in Egypt.

January 28, 2012 04:40
3 minute read.
Syrian protesters outside Cairo embassy [file]

Anti-Assad Syrian protesters outside Cairo embassy 390 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said a European-Arab draft resolution on Syria circulated to the UN Security Council on Friday was unacceptable in parts, but Russia was ready to "engage" on it.

Churkin spoke to reporters after Morocco presented the council with the draft, aimed at supporting an Arab League plan for resolving the crisis in Syria. The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in a 10-month crackdown on anti-government protesters.

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"We the Russian delegation do not see that draft as a basis on which we can agree," Churkin said. "However... that does not mean we refuse to engage with the co-sponsors of that resolution. We will continue to engage."

He made no explicit threat to veto the draft resolution, which French Ambassador Gerard Araud and British envoy Mark Lyall Grant said they want to put to a vote next week after a briefing on Syria on Tuesday by Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby and the Qatari prime minister.

The European-Arab draft resolution would have the council endorse the Arab League's call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to transfer his powers to his deputy in order to form a unity government and prepare for elections.

France and Britain crafted the resolution in consultation with Qatar and Morocco, as well as Germany, Portugal and the United States. It is intended to replace a Russian draft that Western delegations said is too weak and irrelevant in light of the new Arab League plan.

Churkin said Russia would continue to promote its own draft resolution while engaging on the European-Arab text.

"We will continue to work with our draft and will discuss with them what we think is wrong with the (European-Arab) draft and where we can go together with the Arab League in support of the political process in Syria," he said.

Russia, he said, is pushing for a Syrian-led political process in Syria, not "an Arab League-imposed outcome of a political process that has not yet taken place."

The draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, calls for a "political transition" in Syria. While not calling for UN sanctions against Damascus, it does say that the Security Council could "adopt further measures" if Syria does not comply with the terms of the resolution.

Russia, together with China, vetoed a European-drafted resolution in October that condemned Syria and threatened it with sanctions.

Syrian embassy attacked in Egypt

Earlier Friday, Dozens of Syrians broke into the Syrian embassy in Cairo on Friday to protest at their government's bloody crackdown on a 10-month-old popular uprising, Egyptian security sources said.

A Syrian diplomat said the group had made it into the embassy's courtyard, destroying parts of the exterior gate to the compound and breaking into some administrative offices on the first and second floors of the building.

"The Syrian embassy has video cameras of the protesters that security forces and guards could not stop or push away from the embassy," embassy spokesman Emad Arfan said, adding that there were no casualties.

A Reuters journalist who entered the embassy saw broken glass and fixtures and telephones pulled off their hooks.

"I believe that this attack was planned and coordinated from earlier," Arfan said, adding that the embassy would resume business as usual on Sunday.

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Arfan called on Egyptian security services to tighten security around the embassy.

Government forces killed another 37 people in Syria on Friday, activists and residents said, as people in Homs mourned 14 members of a family they said were slain by militiamen in one of the worst sectarian attacks during the revolt against President Bashar Assad.

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