UN vote delayed as top Syrian military brass die in blast

Syrian security forces taking position during armed clashes with gunmen who the TV called "terrorists" (unseen) in the Al-Midan district of Damascus on July 18, 2012 (AFP Photo / HO / Syrian TV)
Western powers condemned a blast that killed top Syrian military officials, calling for a vote on a United Nations Chapter 7 resolution, which could allow measures from sanctions to military action. The vote has been postponed until Thursday.

­UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan has condemned the latest bloodshed, which claimed the lives of at least four of the country’s officials, including President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law, saying that it “only underscores the urgency of decisive council action.”

The violence came ahead of a UN Security Council session during which the 15-member body has been tasked with deciding whether to prolong an observer mission in Syria before it expires on July 20.

However, the voting, which had been previously scheduled for Wednesday, has been postponed.

Annan’s statement was supported by the UK, US and France, along with Germany, which insists that the Council should threaten Assad and his government with sanctions in a bid to halt the violence.

British Foreign Minister William Hague said that the latest violence underlines the need for UN action to end the conflict, as the “situation in Syria is clearly deteriorating.”

"All such events increase the arguments for a strong and decisive resolution from the United Nations," Hague said Wednesday.

"All the members of the UN Security Council have a responsibility to put their weight behind the enforcement of joint special envoy Kofi Annan's plan to end the violence,” he said.

Hague said London is “calling on all parties to refrain from violence, and for the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities."

His statement is mostly directed at Russia and China – both permanent members of the Security Council along with Britain, France and the United States – but who have been reluctant to support a stronger resolution in the Security Council.

Germany’s statement echoes Hague's comment, saying that the suicide attack underlined the "urgent" need for a new UN resolution on Syria, “so that the abuse of human rights stops and the political process can move forward."

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the situation in Syria is "rapidly spinning out of control." He has called on the international community “to bring maximum pressure on Assad to do what's right and to step down.”

He also said that the Syrian government will be held responsible for securing its chemical weapons.

The White House reacted on the deadly blast in Damascus, saying that it is clear that President Assad is “losing control of Syria,” and that the international community must work urgently toward a political transition.

"The sooner this transition happens, the greater the chance we have of averting a lengthy and bloody sectarian civil war and the better we'll be able to help Syrians manage a stable transition to democracy," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

France also released a statement condemning the attacks, saying that “given the level of violence, this makes it even more necessary and urgent to find a political transition.”

At the same time, Iran, which has also condemned violence, says that it “believes that the only way of resolving the current crisis in Syria is through talks.”

Meanwhile, Moscow has made note of a dangerous trend, whereby discussions over a UN resolution to the conflict are met with ramped up militancy in Syria.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Western support for rebels would only lead to an escalation of the bloodshed in Syria – and could draw the country into civil war.

He said this "is a dead-end policy, because Assad is not leaving voluntarily," and that to “make a resolution that would unilaterally prohibit the government from doing something is the direct support of a revolutionary movement."

The vote in the UNSC may become crucial as it could give a green light to international intervention into Syria. However, the result will depend on Russia’s and China’s positions as both countries have blocked two previous UN resolutions against Syria.