Andre Viollaz, AFP
Last updated: 3 February, 2012

UN crafts new draft on Syria resolution

UN diplomats said they had come up with a new draft resolution condemning a bloody crackdown on dissent in Syria that would now be sent back to their governments for deliberations.

The latest attempt at consensus emerged after hours of talks stalled in the United Nations Security Council, amid opposition spearheaded by Russia to a tough draft resolution authored by Western powers and the Arab League.

It was not immediately known how the latest draft resolution differed from previous versions, or what chances it had of approval and being sent back to the 15-member Council for a vote.

“Everyone will seek instructions from their capitals and we hope to be able to vote as soon as possible,” Britain’s UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the decision to send a draft back to governments “does not prejudge in any way” whether or not approval is likely.

The US ambassador, Susan Rice, also played down expectations, saying: “We are still not there.”

“There are still some complicated issues that our capitals will have to deliberate on and provide us with instructions,” she said.

The development came after negotiations had appeared to become bogged down.

Shortly before, a full Council meeting broke up, with diplomats saying they had been unable to overcome Russian concerns over how to respond to the Syrian government crackdown, in which observers say some 6,000 people have died.

The meeting was “not so good,” India’s UN ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said.

Li Baodong, — the envoy from China, which is also skeptical about the need for a tough UN resolution — said “more consultations (are) needed.”

The Security Council has been divided for days over a draft resolution that calls for an end to the bloodshed and the start of political transition in Syria.

Earlier Thursday, diplomats said they had made a major concession to Russia by revising the draft to remove an explicit call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure.

The next sticking point was a paragraph in the resolution — formally introduced by Arab League member Morocco — that expressed full support for the League’s plan, diplomats said.

“The Russians will veto if the text on the table goes to the vote tomorrow,” said a diplomat, asking not to be identified, about one of the earlier drafts.

During the talks, the ambassador of Morocco, Mohammed Loulichki, expressed “frustration on behalf of the Arab League,” the diplomat said.

The see-sawing diplomatic debate on Thursday began with some optimism.

“I think we are very close,” the Pakistani ambassador, Abdullah Hussain Haroon had said, while France’s envoy, Gerard Araud, had said, “I do hope we’ll be able to have a text (ready for voting) tonight.”

Rice, however, said all along that the talks were “tough.”

The diplomatic wrangling at the UN came as fierce clashes across Syria on Wednesday killed 59 people, mostly civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The overall death toll is about 6,000, according to the group.

The United States and its allies say a resolution is needed to order for the Syrian government to back down in its attempt to forcefully suppress a growing rebellion.

Russia has longstanding ties to the ruling Assad family in Syria and says the UN must steer away from what Moscow sees as an attempt at regime change.

Relations between Russia and the West in the Security Council were badly strained during last year’s debates on a resolution that authorized use of force to protect civilians in Libya’s uprising. NATO air power ultimately became the rebels’ biggest weapon in overthrowing Moamer Kadhafi.