[Debate] Russia Introduces Competing U.N. Draft on Syria
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Sat Aug 27 04:59:14 BST 2011
Will left-of-leftists be backing the Western position against the
AUGUST 26, 2011, 6:43 P.M. ET
Russia Introduces Competing U.N. Draft on Syria
By JOE LAURIA And NOUR MALAS
UNITED NATIONS—Russia surprised Western diplomats at the United
Nations on Friday, introducing a draft Security Council resolution on
Syria that opposes a text brought by Western nations earlier this week
that would impose an arms embargo and financial sanctions on the
The dueling draft resolutions could both come to a vote by Saturday;
diplomats said both were likely to be vetoed by the opposing camps.
The drawn-out struggle at the U.N. to increase pressure on Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad, who remains defiant despite tightened
Western sanctions and calls for him to step down, has tested the
patience of Syria's opposition, with some activists now calling for
military intervention to stop the crackdown on protesters.
The Russian text put forward Friday proposes no sanctions, but rather
calls on the Syrian government to institute promised reforms and on
the Syrian opposition to enter into a dialogue with the government.
The opposition has largely rejected calls for talks; a three-day
national dialogue conference in July was boycotted by most prominent
The European and U.S. draft, introduced on Wednesday, calls for a
total embargo on Syrian imports and exports of all classes of weapons
and would freeze the assets of Syrian leaders, including President
Assad. It would also impose travel restrictions on a number of top
The Western resolution also condemns Syria for its violent crackdown
against pro-democracy demonstrators and says Syrian officials may be
committing crimes against humanity. The U.N. says authorities have
killed more than 2,200 people since the uprising against Mr. Assad
erupted in March.
On Thursday, Russia and China boycotted a discussion of the Western
text. On Friday, Russia unexpectedly interrupted a Security Council
meeting on peacekeeping to call a closed-door session at which it
surprised Western diplomats by presenting its alternative draft.
The Russian draft is backed by China, Brazil, India and South Africa,
a Western diplomat said.
Russia is a major weapons supplier to Syria and would be hurt by an
Separately, a U.N. humanitarian assessment team that visited Syria
last week reported that witnesses it interviewed were intimidated by
government minders who accompanied the team, a U.N. official said.
As wrangling over the Syrian crisis continued at the U.N., Syria's
opposition—disparate groups ranging from secular academics to the
exiled Muslim Brotherhood—struggled to unite. A meeting in Istanbul
earlier this week to announce a transitional council extended its work
for a few weeks, while activists deliberated on a structure that would
be inclusive enough so as not to alienate any of Syria's myriad
religious and ethnic groups.
Syrian activists also watched Libyan rebels close in on Tripoli with
frustration, saying the international response to Syria's crisis has
been much slower and less effective in quelling the regime's violence
Four people were killed during demonstrations on Friday in Syria,
according to activist network the Local Coordination Committees, as
security forces appeared to cool their violence. At least 22 people
died in protests across Syria a week earlier on Friday, a day of large
protests across the Middle East, but even then, activists said
security forces appeared to be turning more to targeted arrests and
detentions than to shootings.
With the death toll slowing, Middle Eastern countries and Syria's
neighbors, such as Turkey, could continue to coax Mr. Assad to adopt
reforms, despite hopes by the U.S. and its European allies that they
would follow in asking him to step down.
If the Russian-backed resolution were to succeed, it could give those
countries more leverage to extend Syria's regime more time to stop the
violence and push through long-promised political reforms.
Write to Joe Lauria at newseditor at wsj.com
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