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News, October 2011
Russia, China Veto UN Resolution on Syria
Khaleej Times, (AFP) 5 October 2011, 11:36 AM DAMASCUS -
Russia and China have vetoed a UN Security Council resolution threatening action against Syria’s deadly crackdown on protests, dealing a blow to US and European efforts to isolate President Bashar Al Assad regime.
Amid new deaths in Syria and new threats of individual sanctions, the veto sparked the outrage of European nations, which proposed the resolution, and the United States, which said the council had ‘utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge.’
Nine countries voted late Tuesday for the text which had called for ‘targeted measures’ if Assad pursues his clampdown, which the UN says has left at least 2,700 dead.
Russia and China voted against, killing the resolution because of their veto power as permanent council members. South Africa, India, Brazil and Lebanon abstained, reaffirming a divide in the 15-member body since NATO launched air strikes in Libya using UN resolutions to justify the action.
Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said the European resolution was ‘based on a philosophy of confrontation.’ The threat of action was ‘unacceptable,’ he added.
Many opponents raised the air strikes in Libya and fears that it could be renewed in Syria to justify their votes.
China said it exercised its veto because the resolution would have ‘blindly’ pressured the Arab nation and not helped.
‘Some countries submitted a draft resolution to blindly impose pressure and even threatened sanctions against Syria. This would not help to ease the situation,’ Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.
US ambassador Susan Rice called the comments a ‘cheap ruse by those who would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people.’
Rice called on the council to impose ‘tough, targeted sanctions’ and an arms emabrgo against Syria.
‘The United States is outraged that this council has utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge and a growing threat to regional peace and security,’ she said.
The US ambassador later led her delegation out of the council chamber after Syria’s ambassador Bashar Jaafari accused the United States of ‘genocide’ in a long attack on the western countries.
Russia has proposed an alternative resolution, which condemns the opposition violence as well as that of the government and calls for dialogue to end the crisis. The European nations vowed however that it would not come to a vote.
The double veto by Russia and China was a ‘vote against the Arab Spring,’ France’s UN envoy Gerard Araud said outside the council chamber.
Western governments and human rights watchdogs have expressed mounting criticism of the council’s failure to adopt any resolution on Syria, which has since mid-March been shaken by an unprecedented protest movement Assad has sought to crush using deadly force.
In the latest violence, at least 11 people were shot dead by security forces on Tuesday, including six in the central province of Homs and two in the northwest of the country, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The other three were killed in various centres of protest across the country, the Britain-based Observatory said.
Canada announced new sanctions against Syrian oil exports and investment in its oil fields. The government also added 27 people said to be close to Assad and 12 entities linked to the government to a list of people or companies facing a travel ban and assets freeze.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced support for the proposed UN resolution and said he would soon announce sanctions against neighboring Syria.
Amnesty International meanwhile highlighted cases where Syrian activists had been attacked in other countries and called for stronger action against ‘Syrian embassies’ behind such intimidation.
The rights watchdog said it had documented cases of attacks and intimidation against 30 Syrian activists in Britain, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United States.
France confirmed it had launched an investigation after thugs attacked a protest in Paris.
A foreign ministry spokesman said arrests had been made and extra police protection assigned to Syrian opposition protests after the August 26 attack.
In Sweden, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt warned: ‘If there are diplomats who engage in activities in this country that are not compatible with their diplomatic status they are not welcome in Sweden.’
UN resolution on Syria fails, Turkish pressure looms
By KHALED YACOUB OWEIS | REUTERS
Arab News, Oct 5, 2011 11:01
Russia and China have handed President Bashar Assad a diplomatic victory by vetoing a European-drafted UN Security Council resolution against Syria, after six months of a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
Pressure, however, loomed from Syria’s powerful neighbor Turkey, which has given refuge to a Syrian colonel who has joined the revolt, in a move that may heighten tensions between Damascus and Ankara.
“This veto will not stop us. No veto can give carte blanche to the Syrian authorities,” French UN Ambassador Gerard Araud told the 15-nation council on Tuesday.
The United Nations resolution, which had hinted that Damascus could face sanctions at a later stage, received nine votes in favor and four abstentions. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Washington was outraged and that it was time for the Security Council to adopt “tough targeted sanctions” on Damascus.
Assad had managed to maneuver Syria into being courted by the West while maintaining an alliance with Iran and backing militant groups, but the crackdown — he has sent tanks and troops into towns and cities across the country to crush demonstrations — have left him with few stalwart allies.
The Syrian economy is reeling from US and European Union sanction on the small but key oil sector, which is linked to the Assad family and ruling elites.
Foreign currency reserves are under pressure, forcing the state last month to impose a sweeping ban on imports in a effort to maintain the reserves. But the ban was rescinded on Tuesday, after a spike in prices and disquiet among an influential merchant class that has been backing Assad.
Russia and China, which have major oil concessions in Syria and do not want to see Western influence in the Middle East spread, cast the only votes against the UN resolution.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council that Moscow was firmly opposed to the threat of sanctions against Damascus, reiterating concerns that passing the European resolution on Syria could have opened the door to a Libya-style military intervention.
At least 2,700 civilians have been killed in Syria, by a United Nations count. Assad has said any other country would have responded to the uprising by using similar tactics.
The authorities blame “armed terrorist groups” backed by unspecified foreign powers for violence and say that 800 security-force members have been killed.
After months of peaceful protests, some army deserters and dissidents have taken up arms, prompting military operations against them, especially in areas bordering Turkey and Jordan.
Turkey’s Anatolian news agency quoted Col. Riad Al-Asaad, the most senior Syrian officer to defect to the opposition since the popular revolt erupted in March, as saying he was safe in Turkey.
The agency’s report was datelined Hatay in southern Turkey, where 7,000 Syrians have fled to escape Assad’s crackdown on protesters.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who has predicted the Syrian people will “sooner or later” overthrow Assad, his former friend, said he would unveil plans for sanctions against Syria after he visits Syrian refugees in Hatay in the next few days.
Turkey also announced a nine-day military exercise in Hatay, starting on Wednesday.
Syrian opposition groups meeting in Istanbul on Sunday appealed for international action to stop what they called indiscriminate killings of civilians by the Syrian authorities, but rejected any Libya-style military intervention.
The United States said it was encouraged by the opposition’s statements supporting non-violence, and blamed the mounting death toll on the Syrian authorities.
Asaad, the military defector who leads the “Syrian Free Army,” said last week that 10,000 troops had deserted.
Fighting erupted in the rugged Jabal Al-Zawiya region of Idlib on Tuesday during army raids on the towns of Sarjeh and Shinan, where deserters were reported to have taken refuge, activists said, adding that at least two villagers were killed.
“These are rugged or agricultural regions. The regime cannot control them unless it commits more troops, and then it risks more defections,” said one activist in the northwestern province of Idlib near Turkey.
The state’s news agency said that “armed terrorist groups” killed a member of the security forces in an ambush in Idlib and lightly injured another in a bomb attack on a patrol in the city of Hama, which was overran by tanks in July to subdue large pro-democracy protests.
The authorities have denied any army defections, saying its military operations were a response to appeals by residents.
Assad retains control of the military, whose mostly Sunni Muslim rank and file are commanded by officers of his minority Alawite sect that also dominates the security apparatus.
Syria for the most part has closed its doors to independent media, making it hard to verify events, but a trickle of desertions appears to have gathered pace in the last several weeks.
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