U.N. assembly adopts resolution condemning Syria crackdown

Russia had warned that it would block any U.N. resolution calling for Assad to step down over his crackdown on an 11-month uprising estimated to have killed more than 5,400. (Reuters)

The United Nations has adopted a Syria resolution condemning the violent crackdown on dissent after 137 votes to 12 were counted at the session on Thursday.

Introduced by Egypt on behalf of 27 other countries including Arab states, Britain and the United States, the approved resolution has the world body condemn “systematic violations and human rights” in Syria.

Now the General Assembly must demand that Syria immediately adopt an Arab League blueprint to calm the uprising, to “cease all violence” against civilians and withdraw security forces back to their barracks.

Earlier in the session, Russia opposed the draft resolution, saying it focuses entirely on Bashar al-Assad’s regime and fails to address the armed opposition, a top Russian diplomat said Thursday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said the new document differs little from a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that Russia and China vetoed earlier this month.

“We can’t vote for that resolution, because it still remains unbalanced,” Gatilov said, according to Russian news agencies. “It directs all the demands at the government, and says nothing about the opposition.”

Syrian ambassador Bashar Jaafari had also spoken at the session, saying the new Syrian constitution proposed by the Assad on Wednesday “now creates a state of political pluralism.”

The planned vote on a new constitution this month would effectively end nearly 50 years of single party rule in Syria.

“We welcome all sincere efforts to support comprehensive national dialogue in Syria,” Jaafari said.

But he spoke of “countries that do not want to help in reaching a peaceful solution for Syria,” taking a swing at the Arab bloc.

“Arab League resolutions violate the sovereignty of Syria and conflict international laws … The Arab League are competing with enemies of the Arab world with its criticism of Syria,” Jaafari added.

“What is happening in the region does not benefit any country other than Israel … We hope that the United Nations assists Syria in the face of extremism and terrorism.”

The Syrian regime has continually blamed terrorism for the violent episodes the country has witnessed since anti-government protests erupted last year.

Arab League countries, meanwhile, had called on the U.N. for the immediate implementation of the Arab plan on Syria and the adoption of the General Assembly draft resolution on Syria.

General Assembly resolutions cannot be vetoed and are nonbinding, but they reflect world opinion on major issues. Supporters of the Arab-sponsored resolution hope for a high “yes” vote to deliver a strong message to Assad’s regime.

Arab countries have rejected amendments to the resolution proposed by Russia.

Gatilov said a U.N. Security Council resolution would be required to send any U.N. peacekeepers to Syria.

Russia had warned that it would block any U.N. resolution calling for Assad to step down over his crackdown on an 11-month uprising estimated to have killed more than 5,400.

Moscow has maintained close ties with Damascus since the Cold War, when Syria was led by the current leader’s father, Hafez Assad.

Earlier on Thursday, Russia asked for a number of changes to the draft resolution on the crisis in Syria scheduled for the U.N. General Assembly vote.

One of the amendments Russia wants is on a paragraph referring to the Arab League plan of Jan. 22 that calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to his vice president. Moscow opposes any change to the regime imposed from outside, according to AFP.

Another change would link the return of Syrian troops to their barracks to an “end of attacks by armed groups against state institutions.” Russia has insisted on acknowledging an opposition role in the violent unrest.

Russia also wanted the opposition “to dissociate themselves from armed groups engaged in acts of violence,” and not mention Syrian government abuses against civilians.

“If you remember their (Russian) amendments to the Security Council resolution, they look pretty familiar,” a western diplomat commented, referring to the draft that was vetoed in the Security Council Feb. 4. In the end Russia vetoed the draft as did China.

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