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France to Push for UN Vote to Condemn Syrian Violence


France says it will push for a vote in the U.N. Security Council on a resolution condemning a government crackdown on protesters in Syria. Foreign Minister Alain Juppé says a vote could come soon.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a Security Council meeting on HIV/AIDS, Juppé said the situation in Syria is escalating and the council must take action.

“The repression is getting worse; the massacres are on the rise. It is inconceivable that the U.N. remains silent on such a matter. We are working with our U.K. friends to have as large a majority as possible on the Security Council. I think we have to move to a vote so that everyone can assume their responsibilities,” Juppe said.

France and its European colleagues on the council circulated a draft resolution in late May expressing grave concern and condemning the violence against civilians. The resolution called for restraint and the release of all people detained during the protests that began in mid-March.

Juppé said France is forging a majority slowly and would “soon” set a date for a vote. Asked how soon, he replied:

“I answered this question before, I told you we are waiting for as large as possible majority in the Security Council and I think it is a question of days, maybe hours,” Juppe said.

Diplomats say they believe they have the required nine votes for the measure to pass, but are not certain whether Russia or China would veto the decision.

Although the resolution is largely symbolic, in that it has no sanctions and authorizes no military intervention, diplomats say there is apprehension among some countries to sign on to it following two resolutions in the council on Libya that ultimately led to military intervention.

On his way into the Council, Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong told reporters his country is concerned about the situation in Syria. “But we do not think the involvement of the Security Council will help the situation there,” Li said.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the situation demonstrates the need for the Security Council to take a stand.

“Obviously events over the weekend and yesterday are very serious, and in our view the Security Council should take cognizance of that. We are looking at our text to adapt it, obviously, to recent events on the ground. And we will be seeing whether there is any shift in those few countries who are so far still opposing action in the Security Council. And if, as I hope, there is some sign of movement, we will be putting it to a vote quickly,” Grant said.

Rights groups say at least 1,100 people have been killed in the government's crackdown against the anti-government campaign that began in mid-March. More than 10,000 have been arrested.

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