News / Middle East

UN Security Council Attempts to End Its Syria Paralysis

Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari shows a document to reporters at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Sept. 12, 2013.
Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari shows a document to reporters at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Sept. 12, 2013.
Margaret Besheer
As the United States and Russia discuss a possible diplomatic route for Syria to give up its chemical weapons, the matter ultimately may land at the U.N. Security Council. Consensus may be difficult for a Council that has been deeply divided over the Syrian conflict.

The five powers on the 15-nation Council have been unable to agree to any action on Syria's civil war for more than two years, with three resolutions having been vetoed by Russia and China.

Security Council president for September, Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan, said discussions between the U.S. secretary of state and his Russian counterpart this week in Geneva are very important for ending the Council’s paralysis.

“We all know that the stalemate on Syria has been within the P5 - the permanent members of the Council. We need to break the stalemate, and in order to break it, obviously these kinds of discussions that are under way are necessary, are essential in fact, to bring the sides closer together and to see if we do have a viable, enforceable basis, in fact, for having a solution in respect of Syria’s chemical weapons programs,” said Quinlan.

Clouds on horizon

There already are signs there, however, of difficulty ahead in the Security Council. Russia has said it will not accept a U.N. resolution that references the U.N. Charter's Chapter 7, which allows the use of force, if Syria does not comply. Quinlan said Russia also has indicated it has an alternative text that it may present.

Richard Gowan of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation says he thinks the U.S. will accept a resolution without a Chapter 7 reference only if Russia provides very concrete guarantees that it will make the process work.

“I imagine the Western powers will accept a relatively weak resolution at this time in the expectation that if [Syria's President Bashar] Assad does not play fair, they can come back and table a much tougher resolution in a month or two months’ time,” he said.

Carne Ross, a former British diplomat and head of Independent Diplomat, an advisory firm that counts the Syrian National Coalition among its clients, said a Council decision that does not include Chapter 7 would be “meaningless.” He said there must be conditions and consequences.

“There have to be clear commitments, there have to be deadlines, there has to be rigorous monitoring. If these elements are not in there, then I do not see much chance for agreement,” Ross said.

On Thursday, the U.N. confirmed it had received a document from the Syrian government signaling its intention to join the chemical weapons convention.

The Century Foundation’s Jeffrey Laurenti said Syria’s announcement that it is willing to declare its chemical arsenal and sign the Geneva Convention prohibiting use of such weapons could lead to the quick deployment of U.N. inspectors into the country and possibly remove the need for the threat of use of force in a Council resolution.

“This in itself will presumably be sufficient to assure the government does not launch any more chemical weapons attacks,” he said.

Draft resolution underway

The French, British and Americans are drafting a resolution that could be the starting point for negotiations among the five permanent Council members. Their working draft is reported to include language condemning the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian authorities; demanding the government declare within 15 days the locations, amounts and types of items related to chemical warfare; and imposing sanctions on violators.

The draft also is reported to refer the situation in Syria since 2011 to the International Criminal Court.

Gowan said that is one element that is likely to be quickly compromised away.

“It is absolutely clear that the reference to the International Criminal Court is a gambit that has been put there and will fall out very fast," he said. "I think that to be credible, you would need a reference to sanctions or even the use of force as a response to non-compliance by the Syrian regime. But Russia is not going to allow that.”

Analyst Laurenti said that while the immediate U.S. goal is to stop the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict, its greater challenge will be to end the war that has killed more than 100,000 people.

On this, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been very clear, saying this week that the collective failure to prevent atrocities in Syria will remain a heavy burden on the standing of the United Nations and its member states. He said he hopes the talks on safeguarding Syria’s chemical weapons will lead to the Security Council playing an effective role in promoting an end to the Syrian tragedy.

  • This citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network shows anti-Syrian regime protesters hold a poster depicting U.S. President Barack Obama during a demonstration in Kafr Nabil, Idlib province, Sept. 20, 2013.
  • Children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • Debris is seen on the ground after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • An injured man walks along a street after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad shows a Syrian military tank on fire during clashes with Free Syrian army fighters in Joubar, a suburb of Damascus, Sept. 18, 2013.
  • A member of the Shohadaa Badr Brigade, which operates under the Free Syrian Army, stands in shooting position behind sandbags in Ashrafieh, Aleppo, September 17, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters walk through rubble inside the old city of Aleppo, Sept. 16, 2013.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he stands on rubble of damaged buildings in al-Aseela neighborhood near Aleppo's historic citadel, Sept. 13, 2013.
  • In this citizen journalism image provided by the United media office of Arbeen, a Syrian protester chants slogans during a demonstration in Arbeen, a suburb of Damascus, Sept. 13, 2013.

You May Like

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs