UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States has drafted an outline for a new U.N. Security Council resolution demanding access for humanitarian aid workers in besieged Syrian towns and an end to the violence there, Western envoys said on Tuesday.
The latest push for action on Syria by the 15-nation council comes after Russia and China twice vetoed resolutions that would have condemned Damascus’ 11-month crackdown on pro-democracy protests and demanded an end to the violence, saying Western and Arab nations were seeking Libya-style “regime change” in Syria.
By focusing on the humanitarian situation, U.N. envoys said, Western and Arab powers hoped to make it difficult for Moscow and Beijing to veto council action on Damascus a third time. Russian and Chinese backing for any council resolution, they added, would be a blow to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Tuesday that the council was working on a third resolution, this time focusing on the escalating humanitarian crisis caused by Assad’s military operations against protesters that the United Nations says have killed over 7,500 civilians.
“There is a text, though it’s not a formal draft resolution yet,” a Western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “It’s been drafted by the Americans. It hasn’t gone to the full council, just to a small circle of like-minded countries.”
Asked when the draft would be ready for a vote in the full council, he added: “I have no idea about the timeline.”
Other diplomats confirmed his remarks, saying that the idea for such a resolution came out of last week’s “Friends of Syria” meeting in Tunis.
In addition to calling for an end to the violence and demanding that humanitarian aid workers get access to besieged towns like Homs and Hama, the resolution would suggest that the government’s clampdown is the cause of the crisis, envoys said.
When asked about the idea of a new draft Security Council resolution, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters: “I think that we need to focus on those actions which have the greatest chance of success.”
A Western envoy said a humanitarian resolution was exactly the kind of text the entire council “could rally around.”
Russia, U.N. diplomats said, has indicated that it would support a resolution that focuses exclusively on the humanitarian crisis without any mention of the political situation. Arab and Western diplomats, however, say that such a resolution would be unacceptable to them.
The new U.S. initiative, they said, could succeed since the Chinese have signaled that they might not want to keep vetoing Syria resolutions in the council.
They said that Chinese diplomats have repeatedly attempted to justify their February 4 veto of a European-Arab draft resolution that would have endorsed an Arab League plan calling for Assad to step aside so his deputy could arrange free elections, saying they were voting against “regime change,” not the Arab League.
Beijing also sent an envoy to Cairo on February 14 to meet with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby as China sought to limit the diplomatic damage from its veto, which ignited Western and Arab anger.
“Reading between the lines and interpreting all the statements and the declarations and the travel arrangements for their envoys, you can ... tell that the Chinese are increasingly uneasy with the position of isolation that they’ve got themselves into with Russia,” a Western diplomat said.
Last week the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution similar to the council resolution Russia and China vetoed on February 4. But assembly resolutions, unlike Security Council decisions, are not legally binding.
If the United States, Europe and Arabs manage to win the support of the Chinese, or at least a pledge from Beijing to abstain and allow the resolution to pass, it will be very difficult for the Russians to stand alone and veto it.
“By dividing the Russians and Chinese we might win both of them, because neither of them really wants to stand alone,” a diplomat said. “At least so we hope.”
Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman