U.S. hints at bypassing U.N. on Syria

UNITED NATIONS Wed May 30, 2012 5:24pm EDT

Jean-Marie Guehenno, Deputy Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the crisis in Syria leaves after briefing the media in Geneva May 30, 2012. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Jean-Marie Guehenno, Deputy Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the crisis in Syria leaves after briefing the media in Geneva May 30, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - If the U.N. Security Council does not take swift action to pressure Syria to end its 14-month assault on the opposition, member nations may have no choice but to consider acting outside the United Nations, the U.S. envoy to the world body said on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters after international mediator Kofi Annan's deputy, Jean-Marie Guehenno, gave the 15-nation council a bleak assessment of the impact of Annan's efforts to halt the violence in Syria, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said there were three ways the Syrian conflict could end.

The first would be if Syrian President Bashar-al Assad's government decided to comply with its obligations under Annan's six-point peace plan - stopping its military assaults on Syrian towns, withdrawing heavy weapons, returning troops to barracks and talking with the opposition on a "political transition."

The second option would involve the council taking action to pressure Damascus to fully comply with the Annan plan, she said.

Neither of those scenarios appear likely because Damascus has shown no interest in living up to its commitments and Russia has made clear that any Security Council moves to step up the pressure on Assad's government through sanctions are out of the question.

"In the absence of either of those two scenarios there seems to be only one other alternative, and that is indeed the worst case," Rice said, adding that it was unfortunately looking like "the most probable."

"That is that the violence escalates, the conflict spreads and intensifies," she said. "It involves countries in the region, it takes on increasingly sectarian forms, and we have a major crisis not only in Syria but in the region."

In such a case, Rice said, the Annan plan would be dead and the Syrian violence would become "a proxy conflict with arms flowing in from all sides."

"And members of this council and members of the international community are left with the option only of having to consider whether they're prepared to take actions outside of the Annan plan and the authority of this council," she said.

She did not specify what kind of "actions" she meant. The United States has led past military interventions that were not authorized by the Security Council, namely in Kosovo and Iraq. So far the United States and its Western allies have rejected military options and said they would not arm the rebels.

RUSSIA DEFENDS ARMS SALES TO SYRIA

German Ambassador Peter Wittig said council members expressed revulsion at the massacre at Houla last week, where more than 100 people, including many children were killed, probably by Syrian government forces and militia.

Wittig urged the council to consider a resolution that would sanction "spoilers" of the Annan plan and suggested that it think about whether the mission of unarmed observers should be expanded.

The British and French envoys also spoke of the need to intensify pressure on Assad's government.

But Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow, which holds a veto on the Security Council, opposes the idea of ratcheting up pressure on Damascus in the form of U.N. sanctions.

"Our attitude toward sanctions, frankly, continues to be negative," he said, adding that Moscow wants countries doing so to stop supplying weapons to Syrian rebels. He also voiced concern about the increasing presence of extremists in Syria.

Asked about Russia's supply of weapons to Assad's government, Churkin said: "The weapons we may have provided to Syria under various contracts, which were concluded a long time ago, are fully in line with international law and do not contribute to the current armed violence in Syria."

The expulsion of Syrian diplomats from several countries, including the United States, could be mistaken as a precursor to foreign military intervention in Syria, Churkin said.

"I hope an effort is made not to allow this step to be misinterpreted as something which is basically a prerequisite of some kind of a foreign military intervention in the near future, which is not the case."

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari complained about unilateral U.S., European and other sanctions, calling them "irresponsible acts."

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Guehenno said that "in the council there is an understanding that any sliding toward a full-scale civil war in Syria would be catastrophic and the Security Council now needs to have that kind of strategic discussion on how that needs to be avoided."

He did not say what kinds of steps the council should take. Earlier he told the council via video link that the violence is unlikely to stop without political negotiations between the government and opposition, U.N. diplomats said.

(Additional reporting by Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Anthony Boadle and Christopher Wilson)

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Comments (16)
shanemcmahon wrote:
UN troops must be deployed asap to put ane nd to these atrocities committed by assad and his thug government

May 30, 2012 6:20am EDT  --  Report as abuse
ThomasW wrote:
Syria is at an impasse. The US doesn’t wish to encourage a chain of revolutions leading to Riyadh, and coming to the pass with Iran — we need to keep our powder dry.

Yet, a resolution or improvement in the situation is dearly hoped for.

http://stratpark.com/middle-east/syria-difficult-problems-us-policy/

May 30, 2012 6:29am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Pastoralist wrote:
The massacre a game changer? We don’t even know what happened. The US and its allies made themselves ridiculous by not waiting for an investigation before expelling Syrian diplomats. It is clear that they had been waiting for this a long time and now they don’t want to be bothered by facts.

It is not improbable that what happened in Houla was some kind of revenge by a local militia for prior violence against them. But of course the US doesn’t care. They already were condoning many hundreds of murders by the opposition.

Syria needs negotiations where there is honest talk about the future of Syria. Not more violence.

May 30, 2012 6:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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