Last updated: 8 June, 2012

Western powers to press for Syria sanctions at United Nations

Britain, France and the United States will quickly draw up a UN Security Council resolution proposing sanctions against Syria over the worsening conflict, diplomats said Friday.

“We will move fast to press for a resolution,” a UN diplomat told AFP.

“There will be action in the coming days to get a vote on a resolution which includes measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter — which would mean sanctions,” the diplomat added in comments confirmed by other Security Council envoys.

The three Western permanent members of the Council want a new campaign for sanctions after UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said Thursday that the international community must warn President Bashar al-Assad of “clear consequences” if he does not carry out an international peace plan.

Russia, Syria’s main international ally, and China have twice used their veto powers as permanent members to block resolutions which had just hinted at sanctions against Assad.

But Annan’s call for substantial new pressure on Assad and two recent massacres in Syria have heightened international demands for the Security Council to act against the Syrian leader.

The resolution will be drawn up alongside international lobbying for action at the Group of 20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico on June 18-19 and other key meetings.

Britain and Germany, a temporary member of the council, made clear calls for sanctions at Thursday’s briefings on Syria by Annan and UN leader Ban Ki-moon.

“We will follow up on yesterday’s meeting. A draft resolution will be prepared by the United States, Britain and France,” said a second Security Council diplomat.

Chapter VII of the UN charter allows for sanctions and, in extreme cases, military action. Russia and China, infuriated by the NATO campaign in Libya last year, have vowed to oppose any military intervention.

Russia has a naval base in Syria and is a major arms supplier to the Assad government. But diplomats say Russia and China have been more ambiguous about measures such as economic sanctions.

Amidst warnings by Annan and Ban that civil war is now “imminent,” Britain, Germany and the Arab League made public calls for sanctions in a bid to force Assad to carry out the Annan peace plan.

The plan calls for the withdrawal of government troops and weapons from cities ahead of the start of political talks. But the UN says no part of the blueprint has been carried out.

Despite the presence of about 300 unarmed UN military observers, violence in Syria has increased and massacres in Houla and Al-Kubeir have caused international outrage.

Ban said Thursday that the Syrian president has “lost all legitimacy.”

“I suggested that the time had come when the Security Council should strengthen its support for the plan, including through a Chapter VII resolution with clear time lines and triggers for sanctions in the event of non-compliance,” Britain’s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters after Thursday’s meeting.

Germany’s UN envoy Peter Wittig said a sanctions resolution on Damascus and the “spoilers” would be a “very strong signal.”

The council must back Annan and “apply pressure and impose consequences” on the Syrian government if it rejects the peace measures, US Ambassador Susan Rice said.