Syrian President Bashar Assad delivers a speech at the parliament in Damascus in June. SANA/AP

UN General Assembly set to denounce Syrian crackdown

The diplomatic effort to solve Syria moves to the General Assembly, where Russia and China cannot veto it.

THE UNITED NATIONS General Assembly will today denounce Syria for unleashing tanks, artillery, helicopters and warplanes on the people of Aleppo and Damascus, and will demand that the Assad regime keep its chemical and biological weapons warehoused and under strict control.

The Assembly, which will vote later this afternoon, has been overshadowed by the resignation of former UN chief Kofi Annan as the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria after his peace proposals failed.

The anti-Syria resolution is expected to easily pass in the 193-member General Assembly, after its Arab sponsors de-fanged two key provisions in the original draft — a demand that President Bashar Assad resign, and a call for other nations to place sanctions on Syria over its civil war.

UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, meanwhile, told the Security Council yesterday that UN military observers in Aleppo are seeing “a considerable buildup of military means, where we have reason to believe that the main battle is about to start.”

The rebels have commandeered tanks, and are bringing them into combat as Syrian warplanes strike back.

“Even in Damascus, I was there a few days ago, one could hear explosions regularly, interminably,” Ladsous told reporters after briefing the Council.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged restraint on all sides, saying, “Both the government and the opposition forces continue to demonstrate their determination to rely on ever-increasing violence.”

But in the General Assembly, diplomats reviewed a draft resolution by Saudi Arabia that focused all its indignation on Assad’s government, military forces and the militias that enforce the regime.

It denounced attacks on children as young as 9 by the Syrian government, military intelligence services and militias, railing against ‘killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence, and use as human shields.”

In a sign of how quickly the situation can change, the resolution that began to circulate Monday reaffirmed its support for Annan, though he had resigned as special envoy on Thursday.

The original draft had called for Assad to resign, highlighting an Arab League call on July 22 for “the Syrian president to step down from power, in order to facilitate a peaceful political transition.”

That naked call for regime change appalled many UN members when the draft was discussed in private with regional groups on Tuesday.

Russia and China opposed the draft, as expected. Both countries have cast a double-veto in the Security Council three times to kill resolutions that could have opened the door to sanctions on Syria, or even military intervention.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he could not support the General Assembly’s “extremely unbalanced and one-sided resolution.”

- Peter James Spielmann

Associated Foreign Press
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