UNfriendly talks: Security Council battles over Syria

Reuters / Eric Thayer
As a new draft resolution on Syria is put before the UN security council, Russia’s envoy to the international body has lashed out at some other members over missing a crucial chance to stop a looming civil war there.

Vitaly Churkin said on Friday that the ongoing violence could have been calmed several months ago, if “all the Security Council members and all leading international players acted in accordance with”the August statement by the council’s chair, which called on all parties to the Syrian conflict to abstain from violence.

Russia’s envoy to the UN pointed to Bahrain and Yemen as two examples where the international community had promoted national dialogue and eventually managed to quash the violence.

“Unfortunately, Syria was instead chosen as a target for regime change, which brought it close to a civil war which threatens very serious consequences for the region and the Syrian people,” the Russian diplomat stressed.

Russia has submitted a new version of a draft resolution on Syria to the UN Security Council. The document is now the focus of a serious debate within the world’s top security body. Russia is adamant that certain points of the draft resolution which Western members of the council want changed, must be preserved.

Chief among them is a paragraph “mentioning violence stemming from the extremist opposition,” which Churkin said must be retained, otherwise the resolution would be one-sided.

In addition, Moscow has refused to support an arms embargo which forms part of an Arab League-sponsored peace roadmap which President Bashar Assad’s government signed this week. Churkin said that “in practice it would mean, as we have witnessed in Libya, that arms would not be supplied to the government, but will be supplied to various opposition groups.”

German Ambassador Peter Wittig said the latest Russian draft did not go far enough in satisfying the demands of the Western powers.

“So far the Russian draft, the Russian suggestions, are insufficient,” he told the media. “We need to put the weight of the council behind the Arab League, behind all the decisions of the Arab League.”

Syria is among Russia’s major trade partners and in particular buys advanced Russian arms. Critics say this is what prompts Moscow to defend the current Syrian regime. At the same time during the Libyan conflict NATO members supplied arms to rebel forces in violation of the UN arms embargo. Assad’s government says the ongoing violence in the country is provoked by bandits, who use arms smuggled from abroad.

The latest wrangling at the UN Security Council comes a day after member states clashed over the way NATO handled its bombing campaign in Libya. Russia called for an additional investigation under the council’s aegis of alleged atrocities committed by NATO. The US called it a “cheap stunt” to distract attention from Syria and undermine “the success of NATO and its partners” in Libya.