News / Middle East

    UN Calls on Syrian President to Step Down

    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (file photo)
    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (file photo)
    Larry Freund

    The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a resolution condemning human rights violations by the Syrian government and calling on the government to end the violence.

    The resolution approved by the General Assembly is similar to a resolution vetoed in the Security Council on February 4 by two of its permanent members -- Russia and China.  While those countries again voted no, there are no vetoes in the General Assembly and the resolution was approved by an overwhelming majority -- 137 in favor, 12 against, 17 abstaining and 3 with no recorded vote.  General Assembly resolutions are not binding on U.N. members.

    The resolution on Syria was introduced in the General Assembly by Egypt, on behalf of the Arab group of nations.

    Osama Abdelkhalek, the Egyptian deputy ambassador, speaking through a translator, expressed what he called an absolute rejection of the use of violence against civilians by the Syrian government.

    "We demand that the Syrian government heed the demands of the Arab Syrian people and satisfy these demands as well as staunch the bloodshed.  Ending the suffering of the brotherly Syrian people is at the head of the priorities of the current agenda of the League of Arab states,” Abdelkhalek said.

    Syria objected strongly to the General Assembly resolution.  Its ambassador, Bashar Ja’afari, argued that the resolution’s sponsors were leading a political and media aggression against Syria.  He spoke through a translator.

    “Here, from this rostrum, we call on them to stop interfering in the internal Syrian affairs and to stop adding fuel to the fire of violence and sectarian strife in Syria,” Ja’afari said.

    Following the adoption of the resolution, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said in a written statement that the General Assembly had sent a clear message to the people of Syria.  "The world is with you," she said.  "A rapid transition to democracy in Syria," she added, "has garnered the resounding support of the international community."

    "Change," Rice said, "must now come."

    Speaking with reporters after the vote, Egyptian representative Abdelkhalek said the Arab group will try to make sure the U.N. Security Council remains focused on the Syrian issue.

    "We believe that the Syrian people deserve an opportunity to have peace and to restore stability.  And that entails having an observer mission, verification mechanism, a peacekeeping force.  All those ideas will be on the ground in the days to come,” Abdelkhalek said.

    The General Assembly resolution does not refer to the Arab League’s call for a peacekeeping force for Syria.

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