UN Draft Drops Call for Syria's Assad to Step Down

UN Draft Drops Call for Syria's Assad to Step Down

Associated Press
Arab countries have dropped a demand that Syrian President Bashar Assad resign in the latest draft of a symbolic U.N. General Assembly resolution that faces a Friday vote.

The weakening of the resolution, which is not enforceable, showed the struggle to build an effective diplomatic approach to Syria’s civil war. A frustrated former U.N. chief Kofi Annan resigned Thursday as the joint UN/African Union mediator to Syria after his own peace proposals failed.

The General Assembly draft resolution had run into resistance from countries including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which had problems with a resolution calling for regime change or for sanctions. The new draft no longer asks other nations to place sanctions on Syria.

A Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was commenting on a General Assembly matter, said lack of support from the so-called BRIC nations would have shaken confidence in the resolution among many developing countries.

With the tougher language, the draft had been in danger of falling below 100 votes in the 193-member Assembly. While General Assembly resolutions are unenforceable, such a vote would have been seen as weak and lacking moral authority.

Russia and China have repeatedly vetoed stronger proposals on Syria in the more powerful Security Council, ones that might have opened the door to sanctions.

The draft resolution takes a swipe at Russia and China by “deploring the Security Council failure” to act.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he could not support the General Assembly’s “extremely unbalanced and one-sided resolution.” He said the countries pushing the resolution most actively are the ones providing weapons to armed opposition groups. “This is, unfortunately, the tragedy of the matter, something which made Kofi Annan’s efforts so difficult.”

The General Assembly draft resolution, written by Saudi Arabia and lobbied for by Egypt and Bahrain, is an attempt to make an end run around the stalemate in the Security Council.

The revised draft resolution still demands that the Syrian army stop its shelling and helicopter attacks and withdraw to its barracks. It backs Annan’s “demand that the first step in the cessation of violence has to be made by the Syrian authorities.”

Reacting to Syria’s recent confirmation that it has chemical weapons and announcement that it would use them on any invaders, the draft resolution “demands that the Syrian authorities refrain from using, or transferring to non-State actors, any chemical and biological weapons, or any related material.”