Western nations press for Syria resolution

European nations and United States on collision course with Russia over proposed UN vote condemning Syrian crackdown.

    European nations have called on the UN to condemn Syria's crackdown on anti-government protests [Reuters]

    Western nations are pressing for the adoption of a UN resolution condemning Syria's crackdown on anti-government protests despite the threat of a Russian veto.

    European nations backed by the US were expected to seek a vote on Tuesday on a resolution imposing "targeted measures" against the government of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad for a crackdown that has killed 2,700 people, according to UN estimates.

    But Russia hit out at the proposed resolution against its longtime ally, describing it as "unacceptable".

    Britain, France, Germany and Portugal had dropped the word "sanctions" from their draft text in a bid to win over members of the UN Security Council, but it was not enough to avoid opposition from veto-wielding Russia.

    "The text that Western nations are planning to put up for a vote is clearly unacceptable," Gennady Gatilov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, told the Interfax news agency.

    The current proposal would impose sanctions if Assad failed to comply within 30 days with instructions to end violence and impose reforms.

    "It is unacceptable because it keeps the prospect of imposing sanctions on Syria," Gatilov said, although his language carefully avoided the mention of Russia using its right to veto the resolution.

    US support

    The US state department urged Moscow on Tuesday to consider carefully its stand on the measure.

    Asked if she expected Russia to support sanctions, US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters: "I think the Russians will make their own national decision, but we are hoping for strong support for this resolution ... from all members of the Security Council."

    Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey, reporting from the UN, said, "It's really quite a weak resolution, with no real threat of sanctions; but [it includes] the possibility of targeted measures down the road if Syria doesn't comply."

    Our correspondent also said Russia could abstain rather than veto the resolution. 

    Western governments and human rights watchdogs have expressed mounting criticism of the council's failure to adopt any resolution on Syria, which has since mid-March been shaken by an unprecedented pro-democracy protest movement that the Assad government has sought to crush using deadly force.

    Latest violence

    In the latest violence, at least nine people were killed on Tuesday, including six civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

    Follow our in-depth coverage of Syria

    Four died in clashes near the border with Turkey between troops and deserters unwilling to shoot at protesters and the others in central Homs province, it said.

    Approximately 7,500 Syrians have fled the crackdown and are staying in camps in southern Turkey.

    Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, voiced support for the proposed UN resolution and said he would soon announce sanctions on the neighbouring country.

    "The draft resolution before the council today is in the nature of sending a warning. We hope there will a positive outcome of this vote and that there will then be further discussions about whatever further steps need to be taken," Erdogan told a news conference during a visit to South Africa.

    Meanwhile, Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, urged Security Council members to find a "unified answer" to the crackdown in Syria, warning that inaction would weaken the UN's authority.

    "We need to find a united, unified common answer to this repression in Syria which we cannot accept," Westerwelle said in The Hague after a working lunch with Uri Rosenthal, his Dutch counterpart.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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