Top UN official slams inaction over Syria

General Assembly president calls for reform of Security Council, saying disagreement over Syria has emboldened Damascus.

The president of the United Nations General Assembly has criticised the world body’s Security Council after its failure to agree to a resolution on Syria, as violence continues to escalate in the country.

Nasser Abdul Aziz Al-Nassir, Qatar’s ambassador to the UN who was elected as president of the assembly in 2011, told the UK-based Independent newspaper that there was a need for a “more active and effective UN” and that the ability of just five countries to veto Security Council decisions was a system that could endanger international peace and security.

The UN General Assembly last month voted overwhelmingly to condemn the Syrian government over its crackdown, but action by the UN Security Council has been blocked by Russian and Chinese vetoes.

“The world has changed; the UN should also reform itself to deal with the issues of today,” the Independent reported him saying on Monday.

“Because of disagreement from one or two members who have the right to veto, this sent the wrong message to the government of Syria; that’s why they are not co-operating,” he told the newspaper.

“I am very upset [with Russia and China] because it sent the wrong message and people have suffered and we see it is getting worse every day,” he was quoted as saying.

Qatar has consistently pushed for tougher UN-backed action against Syria and was a co-sponsor of the proposed Security Council resolution that was blocked by Russia and China. It has also called for Syria’s opposition to be armed and for Arab League troops to be deployed to the country.

Addressing a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland last week, Nassir said he was “deeply concerned” by the situation in Syria and called for the international community “to increase its mobilisation”.

“This is a high time for the High Commissioner of Human Rights, the President of the Human Rights Council, the Security Council and the General-Assembly; this is the time for acting as one to face this crisis and end it with the least loss possible. This is the moment that we shall unite to save lives, right to life… shall be cherished.”

China, which had said the resolution would have opened the door to intervention against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, on Sunday offered a proposal to end the violence in the country, calling for an immediate ceasefire and talks by all parties but standing firm against any intervention by outside forces.

“We oppose anyone interfering in Syria’s internal affairs under the pretext of ‘humanitarian’ issues,” according to the proposal from an unnamed “leading official” and posted on the foreign ministry’s website.

The proposal later said: “China does not approve of armed interference or pushing for ‘regime change’ in Syria and believes that use or threat of sanctions does not help to resolve the issue”.

Refugee surge

This came as activists reported shelling and other violence across Syria on Sunday, sending one of the biggest surges of refugees across the border into Lebanon in a single day since a revolt against Assad began a year ago.

Syrian forces continued their assault on Homs, Syria’s third-largest city with about one million inhabitants, bombarding more areas, activists said, with aid agencies still unable to gain access to neighbourhoods in desperate need of relief.

Syrian artillery also pounded the mainly opposition-held city of Rastan in the centre of the country, monitors said.

Conditions in the western Homs neighbourhood of Baba Amr have been described as catastrophic, with reports describing extended power outages, shortages of food and water, and no medical care for the sick and wounded

Four children were said to be among seven civilians killed in the shelling. The victims included six family members killed when a rocket slammed into their home, said the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Government forces took control of the opposition stronghold on Thursday after opposition fighters fled under the same constant bombardment that activists say has killed hundreds of people since early February.

The Syrian government has said it is fighting “armed gangs” in Baba Amr and has pledged to “cleanse” the neighbourhood.

Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon, said the UN and international rights groups were investigating the government’s crackdown in the area.

Many locals were wondering where the next government offensive would take place, she said.

“Many believe the same ‘cleansing’ of Baba Amr, as the army is calling it, is going to be carried out in areas in the south [of the city], where it is believed many of the Free Syrian Army has gone.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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