posted on MON 5 NOV 2012 4:34 PM
Syria Consultations

Tomorrow morning (6 November), Council members will receive a briefing in consultations from Jeffrey Feltman—head of the Department of Political Affairs—on Syria and the failed ceasefire brokered for the Eid al-Adha holiday (26 - 30 October). Council members last received a briefing on this issue when Joint UN-Arab League Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi reported to Council members on 24 October in advance of the ceasefire. (The UK had originally requested a briefing to follow-up the outcome of the proposed ceasefire to be scheduled for the final days of October, but it was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy.) No formal outcome is expected.

Although tomorrow’s meeting is intended to focus on why the ceasefire failed to hold (news reports suggested that clashes recommenced in Syria less than five hours after the official start of the ceasefire), it is likely that Council members will also be interested in discussing subsequent developments related to Syria. In particular, members may want more details about recent meetings between Brahimi and officials in Moscow and Beijing on 29 October and 30-31 October, respectively.

Also at the forefront of Council members’ minds will be Brahimi’s call on 4 November, following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Araby, for a new Council resolution based on the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June. (The Geneva Communiqué, by the Action Group for Syria, which included the P5, mapped out steps for a “Syrian-led political process leading to a transition.”)

Russia and China have previously reiterated their commitment to the Geneva Communiqué as the basis for any political solution to the crisis in Syria. Most recently—following Brahimi’s visit to Beijing—China unveiled its own four-point plan for Syria that seems to echo the Geneva Communiqué’s reference to a transitional governing body formed on the basis of mutual consent. This language allowed the P5 to continue to disagree on the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

However, it seems that commitment by Russia and China to the Geneva Communiqué may not translate into support for a renewed Security Council role in endorsing any political transition plan proposed by Brahimi. At the press conference following the 4 November meeting, Lavrov asserted that there is “no need for any type of resolution” if the UN’s priority is saving lives and not regime change. Meanwhile, the P3 members of the Council still view the six-point plan, proposed by former Joint UN-Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan, as the commonly agreed platform in the Security Council for a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

Despite these continuing P5 divisions, it seems likely Council members will nevertheless be interested in exchanging preliminary views on Brahimi’s proposal for a new Council resolution to address the need for a political transition in Syria, though Feltman may be hesitant to address that issue in Brahimi’s absence.

Another area of interest may be the meeting of Syrian opposition groups in Doha, Qatar, which began on 4 November and is expected to last until 8 November. These talks are intended to unify the disparate opposition groups into a potential government in exile.

Efforts by any Council members to move the scope of discussion beyond the failed ceasefire are likely to result in a more tense discussion. However, Brahimi is expected to brief the Council again in the coming weeks, and his call for a resolution will likely receive more direct and sustained attention at that time.

For a concise background on the Council’s response to the Syrian crisis please see
“In Hindsight”: Syria (October 2012 Forecast)

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