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UN assembly hits out at Security Council failure on Syria

The Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution criticising the Security Council’s failure to act on the Syria conflict.

Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, right, listens to speakers during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations Friday, Aug. 3, 2012
Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, right, listens to speakers during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations Friday, Aug. 3, 2012
Image: Kathy Willens/AP/Press Association Images

THE UN GENERAL Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution Friday criticising the Security Council’s failure to act on the Syria conflict, which UN leader Ban Ki-moon said has become a “proxy war”.

The resolution, which condemned President Bashar al-Assad’s use of “heavy weapons” in his battle against the rebellion against his rule, was passed by 133 votes with 12 countries against and 31 abstaining.

Russia and China, which have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, were among high profile opponents of the resolution.

Frustration and anger

Many diplomats said Friday’s vote was a show of frustration and anger at the lack of international action on the conflict.

Though the resolution is not legally binding, there was increased attention on the General Assembly action after the resignation of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and the mounting battle for the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The resolution said members deplored “the Security Council failure to agree on measures” to make the Syrian government carry out UN demands to end almost 18 months of fighting.

It condemned “the Syrian authorities use of heavy weapons including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters” and demanded that the government refrain from using its chemical weapons.

Saudi Arabia drew up the resolution with Arab and western backing and its UN envoy said the success of the vote was “painful victory” because of events in Syria.

After the vote, Saudi Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi told reporters the double vetoes gave “the impression that the Security Council was turning a blind eye to the painful reality.”

He said there was “a consensus that does not support the paralysis of the Security Council, a consensus that says the United Nations cannot be oblivious to the suffering of the Syrian people, a consensus that demands action.”

Call for Assad to stand down

During negotiations ahead of the vote, demands that the motion include a call for Assad stand down and a call for sanctions against his government were dropped because of opposition from non-aligned countries.

But it still welcomed an Arab League decision passed last month which calls for Assad to leave office.

Syria strongly opposed the resolution and its UN envoy, Bashar Jafaari accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states of arming rebel groups.

Jafaari said the resolution showed the “hypocrisy” of Saudi Arabia and that it would “no impact whatsoever”.

While US envoy Susan Rice welcomed the vote, many countries expressed reservations. South Africa, which voted in favor, said the resolution should have been tougher on the Syrian opposition.

The UN secretary general told the General Assembly the conflict has become a “proxy war” and that the international powers must overcome rivalries to end the violence.

Ban said growing radicalization and extremism had been predicted at the start of the conflict in March 2011.

“The next step was also forewarned: a proxy war, with regional and international players arming one side or the other. All of these dire predictions have come to pass,” Ban told the assembly.

Peace plan

Ban turned his fire on the Security Council saying it had become “paralyzed” by divisions over Syria despite calls for “consequences” to be imposed for not carrying out Annan’s peace plan.

“Now, with the situation having worsened, they must again find common ground. The immediate interests of the Syrian people must be paramount over any larger rivalries of influence.”

Ban said the Syria conflict “is a test of everything this organization stands for” and recalled a recent visit to Srebrenica, site of a massacre he called “one of the darkest chapters in this organization’s history.”

UN peacekeepers were accused of not doing enough to stop the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim boys and men in the Bosnian town in July 1995.

“I do not want today’s United Nations to fail that test. I want us all to show the people of Syria and the world that we have learned the lessons of Srebrenica,” the UN leader said.

Russia and China have justified their vetoes by saying western nations want to force the downfall of Assad.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: Mortars kill at least 20 in Damascus refugee camp

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