Russia Circulates New UN Draft On Syria

Russia has distributed to the 14 other United Nations Security Council members the draft of a new resolution aimed at pressuring the Syrian regime to take action to halt the bloodshed in the country.

Reports say that while envoys from Western countries view the proposed Russian text as not tough enough on the Syrian regime, they are willing to negotiate with Moscow in a bid to agree on what could be the Security Council’s first binding resolution on the bloody crackdown by the Syrian regime against opposition protesters.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the United States is ready to work with Russia to achieve agreement on a resolution.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the text urges an end to the violence that the UN estimates has killed more than 5,000 people over nine months. He also said the text doesn’t mention sanctions.

“We propose to the Council a new version which takes into account the developments of the past few months,” said Churkin, “and which considerably strengthens all aspects of the previous text, with regard to the need to stop violence, with regard to the need to uphold human rights, with regard to expediting reforms (in Syria).”

Secretary of State Clinton said that while the U.S. does not fully agree with Moscow’s current proposal, she said it is the “first time” that Russia has recognized that the violence in Syria needs to be taken up by the Security Council.

“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 [UN] Security Council,” Clinton said. “It’s just that we have differences in how they are approaching it, but we hope to be able to work with them.”

Veto-holding Security Council members Russia and China have previously refused to support a resolution that would put the main blame for the bloodshed on the Syrian regime.

The UN developments came as Syrian activists said that army deserters had killed 27 soldiers in southern Syria, in some of the deadliest attacks on forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the uprising in March.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes flared in the southern city of Daraa, and at a checkpoint east of the city where all 15 personnel manning it were killed.

compiled from agency reports

Palestinian statehood bid on the ropes?

The Palestinian drive for independence may have hit another roadblock, as the UN Security Council’s membership committee is expected to approve a draft report Friday stating it has failed to reach a unanimous conclusion on the bid.

­While Palestine would almost certainly obtain the two-thirds majority in the 193-member General Assembly necessary for approval, the 15 members of the Security Council appear to have thrown a wrench in the works.

The United States could yield their veto power if Palestine managed to get nine out of 15 votes, but it appears the Palestinians have only managed to secure eight supporters.  

While Russia, China, Brazil, India, Lebanon, South Africa, Gabon and Nigeria all stand behind the Palestinian bid, the US is firmly against it.  Meanwhile, the remaining six members are expected to either vote ‘no’, or abstain. 

The Palestinians claim the reluctance of members like France and Germany to support their cause is down to extensive US arm-twisting behind the scenes.   
If the committee does approve the draft report on the impasse, the issue will be sent back to the Security Council, which can either shelve it, or go ahead with a vote.  

The Palestinians could still demand a vote, even if the Security Council attempts to sidestep the issue.  However, besides forcing Security Council members to publicly justify their decision, Palestinians would equally expose their own lack of support.

f the Security Council fails to vote on the application, the Palestinians also have the option of pursuing upgraded observer status within the UN.  Although they wouldn’t have voting rights, they could join a number of UN agencies, and would merely need to secure a majority vote before the UN General Assembly.

The Palestinians have long sought to establish a sovereign state based on 1967 borders, which would include the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.  However, as decades of peace talks have failed to produce a result, President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas sought to kick start the process by applying for full UN membership on September 23. 

Late last month, the Palestinian drive for statehood was advanced further when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted to receive Palestine.  With 107 voting yes, 14 voting no, and 52 abstaining, it was the first time Palestinians achieved full membership status within a UN body.

Moscow slams Western draft resolution on Syria

The Western draft resolution on Syria could provoke a Libyan scenario in the country, Russian Prime Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.

He underscored that Russia is opposed to Syria sanctions.

“The Western resolution is fraught with the repetition of a Libyan scenario although its co-authors are trying to convince us otherwise,” he said.

The main problem with the document is that it lays the blame squarely at President Bashar Assad’s doorstep, which Lavrov described as a “one sided approach.”

On October 4, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution that urged the Syrian regime to immediately stop using violence against protesters or face “targeted measures.”

The draft resolution, sponsored by France with Britain, Germany and Portugal, was supported by nine of 15 Security Council members. Four others – Brazil, India, South Africa and Lebanon – abstained.

President Assad said in late August that Washington and its European partners were hindering the political changes that represent the only way out of Syria’s crisis.


McFaul: U.S. Likely To Meet Russia On New Syria Resolution

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama’s top Russia adviser has said that diplomats from Washington and Moscow will likely meet in the coming weeks to work on a new UN Security Council draft resolution targeting the Syrian government over its bloody crackdown on antigovernment protesters.

Michael McFaul, a member of Obama’s National Security Council and the nominee for U.S. ambassador to Russia, said Russia will likely not veto a new resolution on Syria.

McFaul made the comments during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on October 12.

On October 4, permanent UN Security Council members Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution condemning the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over the crackdown, which has killed nearly 3,000 people.

Moscow, which has enjoyed friendly relations with the Assad government, said the resolution could serve as a pretext for military intervention in Syria — a claim that the United States and its European allies reject.

Russia and China veto UN resolution on Syria

Members of the UN Security Council have voted on a draft resolution on Syria on Tuesday. The resolution was not passed with nine votes in favor, two against, and four abstentions, with Russia and China voting against the proposed resolution.

Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said that Russia did not support the resolution because it was based on a totally different philosophy, “a philosophy of confrontation,” and contained “an ultimatum of sanctions.”

China’s ambassador, Li Bandong, said his country had opposed the resolution because “sanctions, or threat of sanctions, do not help the situation in Syria but rather complicate the situation.”

In order for the resolution to be adopted, nine of the 15 Security Council members had to support it, with none of the veto-wielding members voting against.

The vote followed weeks of debate over whether to impose sanctions against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Many countries had been working on finding a text that could result in a compromise among the 15 Security Council members.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, said that the current resolution was “unacceptable” as it envisaged sanctions and did not call on Assad’s government to start talks with the opposition, Interfax news agency reported.

Many Security Council members do not want Syria to turn into another Libya. Russia and China cast a veto on resolution, as its text left the door open for further sanctions.

Russia repeatedly said that it would not support any text in a resolution that would leave the door open for sanctions, so Britain, France, Germany and Portugal dropped the word ‘sanctions’ from their draft resolution.

The US, Turkey, and other countries had independently imposed sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. But all this time Russia was spearheading more negotiations, and rejected resolution drafts put forward by other UN members.

Protests in Syria erupted in March and during the government’s harsh response more than 2700 people have since died, according to the UN’s own figures.

Russia against new draft resolution on Syria

Russia is against a new draft resolution on Syria put forward by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal and backed by the United States, a diplomatic source told RIA Novosti.

“Articles on sanctions included in the new draft cannot satisfy Russia,” he said.

The scaled-down UN draft resolution sent to UN Security Council members threatens the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with sanctions only if violence against protesters does not end.

The 15-nation Security Council “expresses its determination, in the event that Syria has not complied with this resolution, to adopt targeted measures, including sanctions,” the document reads. An earlier draft resolution called for sanctions against Assad, his family and his aides.

The new draft resolution was put forward after Russia and China threatened to veto any sanctions against the Syrian authorities.

Representatives of the UN Security Council member countries are expected to discuss the document later in the day, another source said.

Last week, the European Union stiffened its sanctions against Syria to include a ban on investment in the country’s oil industry as well as asset freezes and travel bans for a number of senior Syrian officials. Sanctions have also been imposed on a Syrian TV network and a telecom firm over their suspected links to the government.

More than 2,700 people are estimated to have been killed across Syria since the uprising began in March.

US set to dash Palestine’s great expectations

As President Abbas prepares to bid for full UN membership for Palestine, the move is being strongly opposed by Israel and the US, who claim it would undermine chances of a return to peace talks.

­If global politics were a sport, the United Nations would be the grand arena, and September would be opening season. Nearly 200 of the world’s most powerful and not-so-powerful players descend on New York City, gathering in one room for a week’s worth of speeches and a chance to grandstand on the international stage.

Nearly 10,000 delegates and 2,000 journalists are in town for the General Assembly debate. But in reality, there are only five countries who really matter: Russia, China, France, the USA and Britain – the permanent Security Council members with veto power.

“The real power in the United Nations resides in the Security Council and it requires a consensus among the five permanent members. And as long as one or more permanent members won’t go along with something, the UN’s ability to act is limited,” Hussein Ibish from the American Task Force on Palestine told RT.

No resolutions can succeed if opposed by any of the big five. Case in point – the current Palestinian campaign for UN membership and statehood, an initiative the US publicly supported last year.

“When we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations – an independent, sovereign state of Palestine living in peace with Israel,” stated president Obama in 2010.

But this year it is the opposite, with Washington saying it will veto Palestinian membership of the UN, and warning of additional collateral damage.

“One of the things that I hope the Palestinian leadership is considering is the day after. What will happen when after whatever show we have in the United Nations is done, what will change in the real world for the Palestinian people. The answer is nothing, sadly,” said US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice.

Ironically, the majority of the General Assembly supports Palestinian UN membership. The assembly alone, with two-thirds majority, can award nonmember observer status to the Palestinians, like the Vatican enjoys. And it does not need Security Council approval to do so. So no-one can veto this decision.

Some believe, however, the UN is the wrong forum for resolving major international disputes.

“It is a very dysfunctional situation and actually the UN really is not the venue for this,” maintains City Press journalist Matthew Lee. “The UN only gets the hype aspects of these fights and deals with them pretty badly. The Israeli- Palestinian problem at the UN is mostly theater, and this is just one particularly freakish example of it,” says Lee.

This global gathering attracts the security, crowds, and media madness of a sports championship. But when it comes to practical outcomes, scoring more than a symbolic victory could be unlikely.

“Even if there is a permanent member or two or three who believe that Palestine should not be a member of the UN, they want it on record that the vast majority of the world do believe it’s time,” Doug Hostetter, a co-chair of the NGO Working Group On Israel and Palestine, told RT.

The annual UN gathering always delivers highlights, headlines, bells and whistles. Many wonder if this superbowl of diplomatic strategy leads to anything more than the event itself.

UN approves seat for Libya’s rebels

The United Nations has approved a resolution in a show of support for Libya’s National Transitional Council. The pledges range from easing sanctions to assets unfreezing – as well as a seat in the UN General Assembly.

­The General Assembly welcomed Libya’s National Transitional Council to the international body in its Friday gathering in New York. Despite the NTC not controlling the entire countryyet, the rebels’ council will be able to adopt their representative function as soon as next week at a UN ministerial meeting.

A special UN Support Mission to Libya for an initial period of three months was approved by the UN Security Council. The diplomats refer to it as a “political operation”: the mission would give advice on restoring security and law, but also concentrate on helping the transitional government organize elections and write a new constitution.

This decision was unanimously welcomed by all the Security Council members, including the Russian envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, who said it was the UN’s responsibility to help create a law-and-order system in the country to put an end to the chaos caused by the full-scale civil war. Churkin stressed that the current situation in Libya was a result of the failure to properly implement UN Resolution 1973 and protect civilians.

The no-fly zone over Libya will not be lifted, but will remain under review, says the new resolution. Though a ban on flights by Libyan civil aircraft will be lifted, Russia pushed for a quick abolishment of all the restrictions in Libya’s airspace.

It is important that the council considers lifting the no-fly zone over Libya, particularly as this no-fly zone is being violated arbitrarily,” Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, told the gathering. “In view of the new reality on the ground, maintaining the no-fly zone no longer makes sense. Its lifting must be part of the international community’s efforts to address the aftermath of the Libya crisis.

But some economic sanctions will be pulled back, releasing the billions of dollars belonging to Gaddafi’s regime. Thus, the assets of two major Libyan oil companies will be unfrozen and sanctions against several prominent financial institutions, including the Central Bank of Libya, softened.

The asset freeze and travel ban against Colonel Gaddafi and key family members and regime supporters will be retained, reports the Associated Press.

The arms embargo remains a stumbling block. Russia insists on lifting the ban on small arms supplies to Libya to protect UN personnel and diplomats, but the French and British envoys have not made any concrete propositions on that matter. Nevertheless, the embargo was modified to allow the new Libyan authorities to buy arms “intended solely for security or disarmament assistance.

­The UN Security Council pledging to turn Libya into a democratic state would benefit the average Libyan, says Carmen Russell-Sluchansky, a host and analyst at the Voice of Russia radio station. But the analyst believes now that Muammar Gaddafi and his military machine are out, it will be hard for the country to achieve unity in a democratic manner.

Everybody is going to be imposing their particular interest,” he told RT. “Unfortunately, I am not very hopeful that unity will come very easily, if at all – for some period of time. You have a number of different factions within the rebels. You have those looking for a true pluralistic secular government, which the NTC has generally promised. But at the same time you have to give enough support to other members of the society – [including] the more Islamic and even fundamentalists among them, who are talking about putting the Shariah law into the constitution.