Assad must go, no foreign forces in Syria: UNSC draft

The UN draft resolution on Syria reportedly calls for President Assad to hand power over to his deputy in 15 days or face “further measures”. It also clarifies that no foreign forces will be deployed to the country.

The draft, obtained by the Guardian, emphasized any punitive measures would be peaceful.

It also demands the Syrian government put “an end to all human rights violations and attacks against those exercising their rights to freedom of expression.”

The resolution is set to be debated by the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday. Further negotiations at the council will take place Wednesday, and a vote is expected on Thursday.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow has no intentions of telling President Assad to step down.

“Russian politics is not to ask someone to resign,” he told Australia’s ABC TV channel. “Regime change is not our profession,” the minister added.

He also rejected out of hand any accusation that Russia unconditionally supports the Syrian leader. “We are not President Assad’s friends or allies,” he stressed. Lavrov made it clear earlier on Tuesday that Assad’s continuing tenure as president is not a precondition for a settlement in Syria.

The resolution fails to take account of the positions of countries like Russia and China, which have presented a united front opposing regime change in Damascus.

Moscow says the new resolution contains a threat to “adopt further measures if Syria does not comply with the terms of the resolution,” opening the door to a Libya-style foreign intervention in the conflict-torn Middle Eastern country.

Lavrov said the UN Security Council would never support a tour de force against Syria.

“If [the Syrian] opposition refuses to sit at a negotiation table with the regime – what is the alternative? To bomb the regime? I’ve seen that before,” Lavrov said, “I guarantee the Security Council will never approve this.”

Reportedly, tensions are running so high that the US Secretary of State’s spokeswoman has accused Russian FM Sergey Lavrov, who is currently visiting Australia, of being unavailable by phone when Hillary Clinton allegedly called him to discuss the situation.

­Syrian opposition’s hardline trade-off

­Bashar Assad’s resignation is a non-negotiable precondition for talks on ending the bloody crisis engulfing Syria. Head of the opposition Syrian National Council Burhan Ghalioun stressed there could be “No negotiations without Assad’s exit.

While Damascus accepted a Moscow proposal to host informal talks with all parties without any conditions, the Syrian opposition rejected Russia’s approach outright.

Burhan Ghalioun told the Lebanese Daily Star that Moscow has the power to urge Assad to leave, and offered to confirm the status of Russia’s naval base in Tartus in return.

Author and Middle East expert John Bradley told RT the National Council is now a pawn in greater Middle East game: “NATO is determined to bring the Assad regime to its knees as a prelude to invading Iran. The Syrian opposition is under huge pressure from outside powers who want these talks [between the Assad regime and the opposition] to fail even before they begin – most obviously NATO”.

­The resolution on Syria has been worked out with no Russian participation whatsoever. Because Russia’s concerns were not taken into account, the resolution is one-dimensional, says Konstantin Kosachev, Deputy Chief of the Russian State Duma Committee for International Affairs.

“This draft resolution is addressed towards just one part of the conflict, namely President Assad and his government, to force them to resign. This undermines any perspective for a political solution to the crisis,” Kosachev said.

As well as rejecting peace talks, the Syrian opposition has gone so far as to state that President Assad and his family have lost their chance to make a peaceful exit, in an ultimatum which made reference to the brutal killing of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya last year.

Kosachev believes the Syrian opposition is simply listening to the message coming from abroad, from Washington or Brussels.  This message has always been “’this regime does not have a future, don’t talk to them’ – this message is wrong.”

The result of such a stance will be clashes, casualties and blood, Kosachev predicted, “But not due to Russia’s position, but due to the very unilateral and unfair position taken by the US and their allies.”