posted on Fri 16 Dec 2011 5:21 PM
Draft Resolution on Syria

Council members appear to be considering a draft resolution on Syria circulated by Russia on 15 December. (Russia called for emergency informal consultations on the Middle East earlier the same day.) It seems that Council members will meet at expert level on Monday to discuss the draft.

It seems the Russian draft demands the cessation of violence by all parties, rules out military intervention, calls for the prevention of arms supplies reaching the opposition and urges implementation of the Arab League initiative—in particular deploying a mission of observers to Syria.

However, it appears the draft resolution does not contain elements that other Council members are likely to consider crucial, including a clear condemnation of the violence and demanding full implementation of all aspects of the Arab League initiative. (The Arab League’s initiative calls for an immediate cessation of all violence and the withdrawal of the military from the streets; release of political prisoners; accelerated political reform with a specific timeline; serious dialogue with opposition representatives; and a follow-up mechanism including an Arab team of observers.) Some Council members consider a total arms embargo would be more effective. There has also been concern expressed that the current draft inaccurately implies a parity of violence by the opposition and the government. A call for more explicit language on accountability and cooperation with the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry is also likely. There may also be interest in ensuring sustained follow-up by the Council.

Security Council members have signaled the need to consult closely with the Arab League on the current draft resolution. The Arab League was expected to hold an emergency meeting on Syria at Foreign Minister level on Saturday, 17 December. However, media reports indicate that this meeting has been postponed. It is unclear how this development may affect the Council’s own approach to the situation in Syria.

On Monday (12 December), Council members were briefed on Syria in informal consultations by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. It appears Pillay told the Council that the crisis in Syria had escalated and that crimes against humanity had likely been committed by government forces. According to the High Commissioner’s Office, since the crisis began in March, the government crackdown in Syria has resulted in excess of 5,000 deaths including civilians and soldiers who had defected or had been executed for refusing to shoot civilians. Pillay estimated that hundreds of members of Syria’s military or security services had also been killed.

There appears to be broad agreement among Council members that the situation is grave and has deteriorated significantly enough that the time may be right for the Council to take the issue up again. However, differences remain on how the Council should approach the situation. (On 4 October, China and Russia vetoed a draft resolution—sponsored by France, Germany, Portugal and the UK—that condemned the Syrian crackdown on protestors. Brazil, India, Lebanon and South Africa abstained.) Since the October veto, the four EU Council members and the US have kept a strong focus on regional pressure by the Arab League and Turkey to yield results on the Syrian situation. There remains a desire for strong coordination between the Council and the Arab League before attempting any further action, which—if it were to fail—some Council members consider could embolden Damascus.

It also seems India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) have recalibrated their positions in the face of strong regional censure of the Syrian government and are supportive of the Arab League initiative. The IBSA approach in the Council still seems to be coordinated and there remains a concern about the Council being too interventionist in the aftermath of resolution 1973 (2011) and subsequent developments in Libya. China also seems to be supportive of the Arab League initiative.

Lebanon, due to its own complex domestic political situation, is not expected to shift its stance.