Last Updated: Fri Nov 18, 2011 09:29 am (KSA) 06:29 am (GMT)

Europe seeks U.N. action against Syria; Brotherhood open to Turkish intervention

Syrians living in Jordan shout slogans against Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad, during a demonstration in front of the Syrian embassy in Amman. (Reuters)
Syrians living in Jordan shout slogans against Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad, during a demonstration in front of the Syrian embassy in Amman. (Reuters)

European nations said Thursday they have key Arab support for a U.N. resolution condemning human rights abuses by the Syrian government, as a leader of Syria’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood said the Syrian people would accept military intervention by Turkey, rather than Western countries.

Diplomats from Germany, France and Britain will present the resolution at the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee on Thursday for a vote expected next Tuesday, German officials said.

Success could increase pressure on the full U.N. Security Council to act over the Syria crisis. Russia and China last month vetoed a council resolution condemning the deadly crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces which the United Nations says has caused at least 3,500 dead.

The British, French and German U.N. ambassadors met Arab ambassadors at U.N. headquarters Wednesday after Arab leaders gave Assad three days to end his violent repression, a German mission spokesman said.

“There was strong support to go ahead with the draft resolution: some Arab delegations even expressed their intention to co-sponsor the resolution,” said the spokesman.

He did not name countries but other diplomats said Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Morocco and Saudi Arabia were among strong candidates to co-sponsor the resolution.

“The Arab world has sent a very clear message: the massive human rights violations and the suffering of the Syrian people have to stop,” Germany’s U.N. ambassador Peter Wittig said.

“We appreciate that there is strong support for a resolution by the General Assembly: we hope it will show Assad just how isolated he is,” the envoy added, according to AFP.

But Wittig said it was still imperative for the Security Council to condemn Assad.

“No misunderstanding: this is no substitute for council action. We still see a need for the council to live up to its responsibilities and we expect that council members don't easily dismiss the strong voices from the region.”

After last month's veto, Britain, France, Germany and the United States said they would seek the right moment to return to the 15-member Security Council.

“The action will require a lot more finesse to get it passed but we are still determined,” said one Western diplomat.

The European nations believe that a leading Arab role will be crucial to getting council action.

Russia and China vetoed the Oct. 4 resolution, while Brazil, India, South Africa and Lebanon abstained. After the NATO strikes in Libya, opponents said they feared Western nations would use Security Council intervention in Syria as an excuse for a regime change campaign.

Europe and NATO have insisted they have no intention of launching military action in Syria.

Russia signaled again Thursday it opposed U.N. action, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying the West and the Arab League should not just single out Assad over the violence but also urge opposition restraint.

China however said it was "highly concerned" about events in Syria.

Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood

Meanwhile, a leader of Syria’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood said on Thursday the Syrian people would accept military intervention by Turkey, rather than Western countries, to protect them from President Assad’s security forces.

Mohammed Riad Shaqfa, who lives in exile in Saudi Arabia, told a news conference in Istanbul that the international community should isolate Assad's government to encourage people to press their struggle to end more than four decades of Assad family rule, according to Reuters.

Hundreds of people have been killed this month, one of the bloodiest periods in the revolt since it began last March. The United Nations estimates that 3,500 civilians have been killed in the past eight months in a crackdown on the protests.

If Assad’s government refused to halt its bloody repression, Shaqfa said it might call for foreign, preferably Turkish, military intervention to protect people.

“If the international community procrastinates then more is required from Turkey as a neighbor to be more serious than other countries to handle this regime,” Shaqfa said.

“If other interventions are required, such as air protection, because of the regime’s intransigence, then the people will accept Turkish intervention. They do not want Western intervention,” Shaqfa said.

The Syrian authorities have banned most independent media and blame the unrest on armed terrorist gangs and foreign-backed militants who they say have killed 1,100 soldiers and police.

NATO-member Turkey had close ties with Assad, but now regards the government in Damascus as untrustworthy. Assad has so far ignored Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s repeated entreaties to halt the violence and make urgent political reforms that the protesters are demanding.

Ankara is considering imposing economic sanctions that would target Assad's government without harming the people, and is working with Arab governments to increase pressure on Damascus to halt the attacks.

Several thousand Syrians, including army officers involved in the armed struggle against Assad, have taken refuge in Turkey, and the opposition has met regularly in Turkey to form the Syrian National Council.

The Syrian National Council is the foremost opposition group, bringing together people ranging from exiled dissidents to grassroots activists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

After mobs attacked Turkey’s diplomatic missions in Syria at the weekend, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hosted representatives of the Syrian opposition at dinner on Sunday.

Turkish officials have repeatedly denied media speculation that one of the contingencies being planned is the creation of a buffer zone inside Syrian territory to protect civilians, and to make it easier for members of the Syrian military to desert.

On Thursday, Turkish officials denied a report in Sabah, a newspaper regarded as close to the government, that said representatives of the Syrian opposition had requested Turkey make plans to implement a no-fly zone a few kilometers inside Syrian territory, and to expand it gradually to cover the city of Aleppo.

Sabah said Turkey told the Syrian opposition that three conditions would have to be met, namely; the no fly zone was U.N. mandated, the Arab League took the initiative to support the process, and the United States and European Union acted as guarantors.

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