By Margaret Besheer
European and Arab nations are calling on the U.N. Security Council to back a resolution supporting the Arab League’s plan to end the 10-month-old political crisis in Syria. But, Russia has expressed concerns about the new text.
Following a lengthy closed-door discussion Friday afternoon on a draft resolution proposed by council members Morocco, Britain and France, Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that the new text ignores what he called Moscow’s “red lines” where they could not go.
“The red lines included any indications of sanctions, the red lines included any sort of imposition of arms embargo – because we know how in real life arms embargo means you supply arms to illegal groups but you cannot supply weapons to the government – we cannot accept that,” he said. “Unfortunately, the draft we saw today did not only ignore our red lines but also added some new elements which we find unacceptable as a matter of principle.”
The Russian envoy said the Arab League plan, which includes the transfer of power from President Bashar al-Assad to a deputy in preparation for multi-party elections, imposes a certain outcome of political dialogue before that dialogue even starts.
“We need to concentrate on establishing political dialogue,” he said. “The Arab League may have its ideas about where that political dialogue should go, they are free to express those ideas, but certainly the Security Council cannot be a tool to impose specific solutions on countries, including in this particular situation, Syria.”
He said Moscow does not see the new draft text as one on which they could agree, but said they would be willing to engage in negotiations.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant rejected his colleague’s objections, saying the proposed text does not include an arms embargo or sanctions, nor does it call for regime change. He noted that it also includes some language from an earlier Russian proposed draft resolution on the subject. Essentially, Lyall Grant said, the new resolution simply supports the Arab League’s efforts to end the crisis.
“Frankly, the time has come where we should be supporting the Arab League’s efforts,” he said. “They took a very strong, binding decision on the Arab League members at the weekend. They have come with a credible plan that involves dialogue, a political transition, and we believe that we should support it.”
Lyall Grant said negotiations on the text would begin Monday and he hoped to have a vote on the measure next week, possibly as early as Wednesday.
On Tuesday afternoon the Arab League Secretary-General Nabil ElAraby and the Prime Minister of Qatar will brief the 15-member Security Council on the League’s month-long monitoring mission in Syria, which was plagued by difficulties.
Syria has rejected the Arab League’s plan of January 22nd, but has said the League’s observer mission may remain in the country for another month.
The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed during the 10-month-long crackdown on anti-government dissenters. On Friday, the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, said nearly 400 children have been killed during the crisis.