UN Security Council discusses Syria crisis

Council debates draft resolution supporting Arab League plan, which calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside.

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A growing number of activists in Syria say they are taking up arms to protect themselves in the crackdown [Al Jazeera]

The United Nations Security Council is discussing in a closed-door session the violent turmoil in Syria, the French mission to the UN has said.

Diplomats are debating a draft resolution presented by Morocco, UN diplomats said.

The 15-member Security Council could vote as early as next week on the new draft resolution, which diplomats from the United Kingdom and France are crafting in consultation with Qatar, Morocco, the United States, Germany and Portugal, envoys said.

The draft resolution supports the Arab League’s call for Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, to transfer power to his deputy and set up a transition unity government to hold elections in the next two months.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the European-Arab draft resolution was unacceptable in parts, but his country was ready to “engage” on it.

Richard Murphy, a former US ambassador to Syria, told Al Jazeera that if the Arab League’s proposal was backed by most Arab states, it would send “a very powerful message”.

“If there is a unified Arab position, this will be a very powerful message in New York for the security council powers to consider. If this turns into a revival of the old Cold War fights between Russia and the United States, then the people in Syria …  are going to suffer. It need not happen that way,” he said.

‘Political transition’

The draft resolution calls for “a political transition” in Syria, but does not mention sanctions against Damascus, according to a copy of the document obtained by the Reuters news agency.

The draft’s supporters hope for a vote by next week, but will have to convince Russia and China, both permanent members of the body who used their veto powers to kill an earlier proposal.

The current draft resolution will replace one moved by Russia last month.

“There’s going to be a lot of negotiation back and forth,” Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler reported from the UN.

“Based on what this is saying, [the Russian delegation] will have issues with several [sections], one in particular: a line that says voluntary prevention of any arms transfer into Syria. We know that Russia has had problems with that in the past, and also some of the wording of that Arab League document that came out on Sunday.”

Nabil Elaraby, the secretary-general of the Arab League, and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, the prime minister of Qatar and the head of the bloc’s Syria committee, are expected to brief the council on the situation in Syria and the League’s proposals early next week.

Elaraby and Al Thani are expected to depart for New York, where the UN headquarters is located, on Saturday, and to hold meetings with officials starting on Monday.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut, said endorsement from the UN would “embolden” activists inside Syria.

“[The Arab League] is hoping that there will be a vote later in the week,” she said.

She also said that Russia, a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, wants dialogue, a peaceful resolution to Syria’s crisis and is opposed to any military intervention, such as that which occurred in Libya.

Assad and his government have fiercely rejected the Arab League proposal, accusing the regional bloc of being part of a “conspiracy” against Syria.

The Arab League has been pushing for a Security Council resolution to end the Syrian government’s violent crackdown on protesters, which has killed thousands of people since demonstrations calling for reform began in March.

Al Thani told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that elevating the Syria issue to the UN was “the only option”.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies