Wed, Mar 14, 2012 - Page 6 News List

US-Russia row widens UN’s divide on Syria

AFP, UNITED NATIONS

Wrangling between the US and Russia over the Syria crisis left the UN Security Council even further from reaching an accord on ways to end the bloodshed, diplomats said.

Council members were waiting to see if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would a commitment to respond by yesterday to proposals made by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to end the killing, diplomats said.

The US, Britain, France and Germany led calls for Russia and China to agree a UN Security Council resolution condemning the violence, which the UN says has left more than 7,500 dead in the past year.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West’s “ultimatums will not work” as he rebuffed pressure at a special council meeting on the Arab Spring uprisings.

“I add my voice to that of Mr Annan in urging President Assad to act swiftly, within the next few days, in response to the proposals put forward” by the envoy, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the meeting.

“I appeal to the Security Council to unite strongly behind ending the violence and supporting Mr Annan’s mission to help Syria pull back from the brink of a deeper catastrophe,” he added.

Al-Assad had until yesterday to give a response to peace proposals made by Annan, diplomats said.

Annan said on leaving Damascus on Sunday that he had made “concrete proposals” to al-Assad on ending the killing in Syria and securing humanitarian access to protest cities.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the Syrian president had agreed to give an answer within “48 hours.”

Senior diplomatic sources confirmed that a response was expected by early yesterday.

Russia and China have twice used their powers as permanent UN Security Council members to veto resolutions on Syria, saying they were unbalanced and only sought regime change.

The Western powers are now waiting to see if al-Assad replies to decide whether to step up negotiations with Russia and China on a new attempt to pass a resolution, diplomats said.

The US, Britain and France heightened their condemnation of al-Assad at Monday’s special ministerial meeting and urged Russia and China to agree a resolution.

“How cynical that, even as Assad was receiving former [UN] secretary-general Kofi Annan, the Syrian army was conducting a fresh assault on Idlib and continuing its aggression in Hama, Homs and Rastan,” US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the meeting.

Clinton said after the meeting that she believed her Russian counterpart Lavrov had heard “how strong the feelings are” and “that we expect all nations including Russia and China to join us now in pressing the Assad regime to silence the guns.”

Juppe appealed directly to Russia and China, while also calling on the council to order an International Criminal Court investigation into the Syria crackdown.

“I appeal to China and Russia to hear the voices of the Arabs and the world conscience and join us,” Juppe said.

“The situation in Syria casts a long shadow over this debate,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague, whose country organized the debate as president of the UN Security Council for this month.

However, Lavrov said change in the Arab world “must not be achieved by misleading the international community or manipulating the Security Council.”

He condemned “hasty demands for regime change” and “unilateral sanctions” as “risky recipes of geopolitical engineering which can only result in a spread of the conflict.”

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