The U.N. Security Council discussed a possible compromise resolution on Syria Wednesday - one that would not include sanctions, but would condemn the escalating violence in Syria, urge implementation of promised reforms and call on the government and the opposition to engage in an inclusive Syrian-led political process.
For several months, the Security Council has been unable to reach an agreement on a strong resolution regarding the situation in Syria, where the government has been cracking down on anti-government protesters. The United Nations says some 2,700 people have been killed since the demonstrations began in mid-March.
The issue of sanctions has been the main sticking point, with Russia, India, Brazil and other countries on the council against imposing them on Damascus.
Earlier attempts at a resolution ended in August in a presidential statement, which does not carry the same weight as a resolution.
This week, the four European members on the council - Britain, France, Germany and Portugal - circulated a revised draft resolution that threatens only sanctions later if reforms and other measures are not implemented. Diplomats say they hope to bring it to a vote as early as Friday.
French Ambassador Gérard Araud told reporters that the new European text is a major compromise.
“We really want compromise," said Araud. "The text we are presenting is without sanctions, which is from our point of view, it is a very significant step. So I do hope that we reach compromise with all the members of the council.”
Earlier Wednesday, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that the European draft was “a continuation of the openly declared policy of regime change” of some council members and that in Moscow’s view, it encouraged “destructive elements” in the Syrian opposition to continue their violence. He said Russia had put forth to the council a revised draft of its earlier resolution.
By early evening, after all 15 Security Council members met to discuss the two proposed texts, Churkin sounded optimistic that a compromise would be reached, saying that the sides should be able to find common ground.
“The main thing is not to lose sight of those two objectives - stop violence immediately and put in train a political process which would lead to reforms and which would lead to a satisfactory situation of the people of Syria," said Churkin.
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari was outside the Security Council during the closed meeting. He told reporters that the European draft, which has U.S. support, is intended to distract from the issue of the Palestinian application for U.N. membership, which was submitted last week.
“Focusing on the Palestinian issue is not good for [the] USA and the Europeans; this is why they need to focus on something else. It is a diversion," he said.
Ja’afari said the situation in Syria is improving and that the government is in full control of the country, with the exception, he said, of “some minor spots” in the city of Homs. He added that in a few days, a new commission would be established to review the constitution, adding that the government is “on the right track.”
The Syrian ambassador said his government does not need outside interference in implementing reforms, and would prefer the Security Council encouraged members of the opposition to engage in national dialogue instead of sending negative messages that their actions have international protection.