Russia submits new draft on Syria

Russia has introduced a new draft resolution on Syria to the UN Security Council. It comes after Western states dropped their previous call for immediate sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

Stressing the resolution’s “firm wording”, the Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, expressed the hope that it will “promote the political process in Syria and put an end to violence in the country.”

Russia has strongly opposed sanctions or forcing regime change in Syria, which the new European draft implies, according to Churkin. The Russian ambassador believes western discussion of ‘who is legitimate and who is not’ will only encourage violence in the Middle Eastern country.

The Russian version of the draft also contains a call for Syrian authorities to release “all political prisoners and detained peaceful demonstrators.”

Churkin went on to condemn the resolution proposed earlier by a group of Western countries, including the UK, France, Portugal and Germany, and backed by the US, as another step aimed at changing the regime in the country:

"We believe that opinions expressed in certain capitals on whichever regime is legitimate and whichever isn’t, serves only to promote violence in Syria. It will bring dangerous and even tragic repercussions for the country."

The resolution referred to by Churkin was already the second one proposed by Western states, with their amendment aimed at overcoming strong opposition from Russia and China and winning votes for a Security Council resolution.

The new European draft implies sanctions against Assad’s Syria if violence against the opposition continues. In particular, an embargo on Syrian oil may be imposed.

However this is not the first time EU sanctions have loomed over Syria. On September 23, a packet of sanctions was applied which contained a ban on investments from the Eurozone, and a ban on credit for Syrian businesses.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, had refused to support the previous draft resolution on Syria, which had been proposed by the Western countries. “This is related, in particular, to the Libyan experience,” he told Rossiya 24 television on Tuesday.

India, South Africa, and Brazil were among countries opposing sanctions.

Though the calls for immediate sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime were dropped in the second draft, it still included a threat to "adopt targeted measures, including sanctions" in the future should Assad's government fail to halt its military crackdown on civilians.

At the moment the crackdown continues, with the Syrian army backed by tanks and helicopters, storming the key rebel city of Rastan.

Western diplomats say they are planning a vote by the end of the week.