The Security Council this afternoon began debate on the situation in Syria, where thousands of people have been killed over the past 10 months in a Government crackdown against a popular uprising.
Nabil El Araby, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States (LAS), briefed the Council on the work of the League’s human rights monitors inside Syria, after which senior representatives of Member States began addressing the 15-member body on the situation in the Middle East country.
Mr. El Araby urged members of the Council to back a draft resolution prepared by Morocco and based the LAS plan of action on Syria, which calls for an immediate cessation of violence by all parties, and progress towards national dialogue that leads to a peaceful political resolution of the crisis.
“We are attempting to avoid any foreign intervention, especially military intervention,” said Mr. El Araby, adding that the draft resolution also calls for the full respect of Syria’s territorial integrity and unity of the country’s people.
The Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, told the Council that LAS initiatives to end the violence in Syria “have been in vain” because the Government had failed to make any sincere effort to cooperate.
“The reality on the ground bears witness that bloodshed has not stopped, that the killing machine is still at work, and that the violence is spreading,” said Mr. Al-Thani, speaking in his capacity as chair of the Arab ministerial committee on Syria.
“Today we come to the Council asking that you assume your responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations to address the humanitarian tragedy taking place in Syria, by adopting a clear resolution that supports the latest Arab initiative that was adopted in the resolution of LAS Ministerial Council in Cairo on 22 January,” he added.
“We also call on the Security Council to take all measures based on the resolutions adopted by LAS and notably the economic resolutions and travel ban on Syria. We are not calling for a military intervention. We are advocating the exertion of a concrete economic pressure so that the Syrian regime might realize that it is imperative to meet the demands of its people. We are not after regime change neither, for this is a matter that is up to the Syrian people to decide,” he added.
The United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the international community to put aside differences and send a clear message of support to the people of Syria.
“Syria is a unique situation that requires its own approach, tailored to the specific circumstances occurring there. And that is exactly what the Arab League has proposed – a path for a political transition that would preserve Syria’s unity and institutions,” she said.
United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague, urged the council to unite behind the LAS plan to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
“To fail to do so would be to undermine the credibility of this institution, betray the Syrian people, snub the Arab League and fail in this Council’s responsibilities,” said Mr. Hague.
Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari said his country rejected “international intervention,” adding that “homelands are built by their own citizens.” His country, he said, would continue to protect its own people against armed elements. He denounced what he termed “feverish attempts” to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs by misleading world public opinion.
Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, urged both the Syrian Government and all opposition groups to send their representatives to Moscow on an agreed upon timeline to conduct informal contacts without preconditions.
“This would allow for the Syrian parties to discuss many issues on the national agenda without any limitation, in particular the task of preparing inter-Syrian dialogue. Today it is more important than ever to engage in dialogue which would lead to the realization of the necessary agreements on the political future of the country.” He urged the Council to play “a constructive role” in the process.
The UN has repeatedly urged the Syrian leadership to end the violence, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging President Bashar al-Assad “stop killing his own people” and embark on a path to greater democracy and heed the people’s call for representation and respect of human rights.
During his visit to Jordan today, Mr. Ban stated that “it is more urgent than ever to put an end to this bloodshed and violence, to start a credible political solution that addresses the legitimate aspiration of the Syrian people and to protect their fundamental freedoms.”