UN tries to back effort to end Syria conflict
Mar 21, 2012
UNITED NATIONS—Key Western nations are hoping the divided U.N. Security Council will unite and act swiftly to adopt a nonbinding statement backing international envoy Kofi Annan’s proposals to broker a cease-fire in Syria and kick-start a political dialogue between the government and opposition. German Ambassador Peter Witting said the proposed statement “”is a clear message to the Syrian authorities to cooperate with Kofi Annan and to cooperate with the Security Council. And immediately end the violence that is still raging in a very brutal way, as we speak.”” France circulated the draft statement on Monday and council experts and ambassadors were scheduled to discuss it on Tuesday, with several hoping it could be approved possibly late in the day. Annan, a former United Nations secretary-general who is the newly appointed U.N. and Arab League envoy on the Syrian conflict, asked the council Friday to unite behind his effort to end the yearlong bloodshed that the United Nations says has killed more than 8,000 people. According to U.N. diplomats, he said the stronger and more unified the message from the Security Council, the better the chances of shifting the dynamics of the conflict. The draft of the statement to be discussed Tuesday urges the Syrian government to immediately implement Annan’s proposals to end the yearlong bloodshed — and pledges to consider “”further measures”” in seven days if it doesn’t. A presidential statement requires support of all 15 council members and Russia and China have vetoed two resolutions on Syria that would have condemned President Bashar Assad’s bloody crackdown on civilians. They called the U.S. and European-backed resolution unbalanced saying it demanded an end to government attacks only, not the opposition. Moscow and Beijing are particularly wary of Western and Arab attempts to any mention of “”further measures”” — which could include sanctions or military action. They fear that it could be used to justify Libyan-style armed support of the opposition to topple President Bashar Assad. The draft statement, obtained by the Associated Press, also discloses the outlines of Annan’s diplomatic initiative by publicly backing its six point plan, which includes: — Building “”an inclusive Syrian-led political dialogue.”” — U.N. monitoring of a cease-fire, and a Syrian halt to “”troop movements”” and the use of “”heavy weapons”” in and near cities, followed by “”commitments from all other armed groups to cease violence.”” The U.S. and its European allies have demanded that Syrian forces stop fighting first. Russia has been demanding a simultaneous cease-fire by both sides, but Syria insists the rebels disarm first. — Sending in humanitarian aid. — Freeing detainees, especially protesters, and giving aid groups a list of detention centers and granting access to them. — Granting freedom of movement to journalists throughout Syria. — “”Ensure freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed.””