December 23, 2011 / 9:55 PM / 7 years ago

Russia offers new U.N. Syria draft, Germany unsatisfied

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia’s U.N. delegation on Friday submitted a revised draft resolution on Syria to the U.N. Security Council, but Germany said it did not go far enough in addressing Western concerns about the escalating violence there.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow had limits on how much it would accommodate the demands of the European and U.S. delegations, which would like the 15-nation council to threaten sanctions on Damascus over its nine-month-old crackdown on protesters.

“If the requirement is that we drop all reference to violence coming from extreme opposition, that’s not going to happen,” Churkin told reporters.

“If they expect us to have arms embargo, that’s not going to happen,” he said. “We know what arms embargo means these days. It means that - we saw it in Libya - that you cannot supply weapons to the government but everybody else can supply weapons to various opposition groups.”

Western envoys have said they would like to see a U.N. arms embargo imposed on Syria. They also reject the idea of equating Syria’s opposition with the government security forces, who they say have been responsible for most of the violence.

German Ambassador Peter Wittig said the latest Russian draft did not go far enough in satisfying the demands of the Western powers, which had also criticized an earlier Russian draft submitted to council members as too weak.

“So far the Russian draft, the Russian suggestions, are insufficient,” he told reporters. “We need to put the weight of the council behind the Arab League, behind all the decisions of the Arab League in (their) entirety.”

“We should not pick and choose,” Wittig said. “That includes the demands to release political prisoners, that includes a clear signal for accountability for those who have perpetrated human rights violations.”

KEY PARAGRAPH REMOVED

Some U.N. diplomats say that “accountability” is becoming synonymous with referral to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for possible war crimes charges.

A key paragraph from Russia’s previous draft which had the council “strongly condemning the disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities” was removed from the new draft, making it weaker than the first version, a council envoy told Reuters.

The deleted paragraph had been among the reasons the U.S. and European delegations had decided it would be worth negotiating on the Russian draft, diplomats said.

Wittig said his requests for amendments to be included in the Russian draft were not reflected in the text.

Western diplomats said the new Russian draft would also have the council welcome Syria’s decision to sign an Arab League deal allowing monitors into the country.

But it does not endorse the Arab League’s threat of possible sanctions against Damascus if it continues with a crackdown that the United Nations says has killed more than 5,000 civilians.

Churkin said he was willing to amend the draft further, though Western diplomats said they suspected the Russians might not be serious about wanting a Security Council resolution on Syria and might instead be trying to help Syria play for time.

In a sign that the violence is escalating, suicide car bombers struck Damascus on Friday, officials said, gutting buildings and sending human limbs flying in the bloodiest violence in Syria’s capital since the revolt began in March.

Wittig said he “deplored” the suicide attacks, adding that they highlighted the need for Security Council action.

“It’s a sign of escalation, that the situation is rapidly deteriorating and underlines the need ... for the council to act,” he said.

Churkin said the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had become the target of “regime change,” similar to the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was ousted and killed by rebels. The anti-Gaddafi uprising was aided by a U.N.-backed NATO military operation to protect Libyan civilians.

But Churkin said Damascus shared some of the blame for winding up in that position.

“Of course, it was the fault of Damascus that they created a situation through violence, excessive violence, that they became this target of opportunity for regime change,” Churkin said.

Additional reporting By Patrick Worsnip; editing by Mohammad Zargham

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