Western powers draft new UN council statement on Syria
* Russia, China have vetoed two resolutions on Syria
* Annan urged UN council to support his peace efforts
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, March 19 (Reuters) - France will submit to the Security Council on Monday a Western-drafted statement supporting U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace efforts in Syria and sending a strong message to Damascus to end violence against protesters, diplomats said.
The decision to prepare a "presidential statement" for the 15-nation council comes after Russia and China twice vetoed binding resolutions that condemned Syria's yearlong assault on demonstrators opposed to President Bashar al-Assad that the United Nations says has killed over 8,000 civilians.
"The main focus is to build common ground, support Annan's efforts and send a clear message to Damascus," a U.N. diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. France plans to circulate the draft to council members later on Monday at the end of a closed-door meeting on unrelated matters, envoys said.
Annan on Friday urged the Security Council to overcome its deadlock and unify in support of his efforts to end the violence, which has brought Syria to the brink of civil war, council diplomats said.
Addressing a closed-door meeting of the 15-nation council via video link, Annan said the tougher the council's message in support of his efforts to negotiate a ceasefire, the greater his chances of ending the fighting, envoys said.
Annan said he wanted the council to approve a statement of support as soon as possible, envoys said.
It was not clear when the Western-drafted presidential statement, which is read out by the president of the Security Council and recorded in official U.N. records, could be approved. Diplomats said they hoped to get it through the council as soon as possible.
Unlike resolutions, which are legally binding and need nine votes in favor and no vetoes from the five permanent council members to pass, statements are generally non-binding but require unanimous support from the council.
The latest draft presidential statement, which is supported by France, Britain, Germany, Portugal and the United States, is separate from a U.S.-drafted resolution calling on Syria to allow access to humanitarian aid workers in Syria.
Negotiations on the U.S. draft have stalled while Annan works to persuade Assad and the Syrian opposition to agree to a ceasefire, diplomats said. Russia and China say the West and Gulf Arabs seek Libya-style regime change in Syria, which Moscow and Beijing oppose.
The last time the council passed a presidential statement on Syria was August 2011, although council members reached a rare unanimous agreement on informal remarks to the press earlier this month to rebuke Damascus for not allowing U.N. humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos into the country.[ID: nL2E8E1B2A]
Shortly after the council approved those remarks to the press, Amos was allowed to visit Damascus.