Last updated: 12 December, 2011

France condemns UN Council silence on Syria deaths

France’s UN envoy said Monday that the UN Security Council is “morally responsible” for killings in Syria by failing to condemn the government crackdown on protests.

But in a sign of growing divisions within the 15-member council over Syria, Russia’s ambassador accused western nations of seeking “regime change” in the Middle East nation and discouraging a political settlement.

French envoy Gerard Araud condemned what he called the “scandal” of the council’s silence after UN rights chief Navi Pillay said that more than 5,000 people have now been killed in the crackdown.

“The Security Council is morally responsible for what is happening today in Syria, the suffering of the Syrian people,” Araud told reporters after the closed meeting.

“France and other members of the Security Council consider that the silence of the council is a scandal. It is scandalous that the council, because of the opposition of certain members and the indifference of others, could not act to exercise pressure on the Syrian authorities.”

Araud said that Pillay’s briefing to the council had been “the most horrific” he had heard in more than two years.

Russia and China vetoed a council resolution condemning the Syria violence in October. The council has taken no action since an August 3 statement, which carries less weight than a resolution.

Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and the United States are waiting for the result of Arab League meetings on Syria in coming days to decide their next move at the Security Council.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the whole council was “greatly troubled by the tragic developments in Syria in the past few months” but he hit out at the West’s motives in calling for action.

Churkin said Russia has urged negotiations but since the August statement, events had seen the western nations “switch gears and turn into regime change mode, discouraging dialogue, discouraging dialogue within Syria, discouraging dialogue between the Arab League and Syria.

“This is very dangerous,” Churkin told reporters.

“In fact they make no secret of the fact that they want regime change. In numerous statements you can trace their policy, which cannot be conducive to a political process,” the Russian ambassador said.

Churkin did not say whether Russia would block a new resolution as none has been proposed.