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International Community Urges Political Transition in Syria

  • Margaret Besheer

Two electronic boards show the results of a vote about supporting the opposition forces in Syria, in the United Nations General Assembly in New York, May 15, 2013.

Two electronic boards show the results of a vote about supporting the opposition forces in Syria, in the United Nations General Assembly in New York, May 15, 2013.

In a vote Wednesday at the U.N. General Assembly, support for Syria’s opposition was weaker than previously, with a symbolic resolution garnering less outright support and nearly double the abstentions than a similar vote nine months ago.

Reacting to the continued paralysis in the 15-nation U.N. Security Council, Qatar and several other countries decided several weeks ago to push for a resolution in the U.N. General Assembly on the situation in Syria, which continues to deteriorate.

In the meantime, the United States and Russia put forward an initiative aimed at getting representatives of both the Syrian government and opposition to the negotiating table next month.

Despite the objections of Russia, Syria and several other countries that General Assembly action now would be counter-productive, the draft resolution was approved Wednesday with a vote of 107 in favor, 12 against and 59 abstentions.

The non-binding resolution welcomes the establishment of the opposition Syrian National Coalition as “effective representative interlocutors needed for a political transition.” It also calls for an inclusive Syrian-led political transition through dialogue with representatives from both the government and opposition.

The United States, one of nearly 60 co-sponsors of the resolution, disagreed that it would hurt efforts to bring the Syrian sides together. Deputy U.S. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo spoke in the General Assembly before the vote.

“In our view, the resolution before you is consistent with this latest initiative. Adopting this resolution will send a clear message that the political solution we all seek is the best way to end the suffering of the people of Syria,” said DiCarlo.

Most of the “no” votes were expected - Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela were among them. But nearly twice as many countries abstained compared to last August, when the General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted another resolution on Syria. This time, 26 fewer countries supported the measure with a "yes" vote. Some diplomats suggested this reflected growing concerns about Syria's divided opposition and extremist elements among it.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the more than two years of Syria's conflict, while nearly 6 million more either have been displaced or have fled to neighboring countries, causing a severe humanitarian crisis in the region.

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