For months, the West has been pushing resolutions towards the UN Security Council, only to have them vetoed by Russia and China because of the threat of sanctions contained in the resolutions. In a surprising and welcome turn of events, Russia has circulated a draft which is stronger in its condemnation of the Syrian government, but still lacks any sanction or arms embargo.
The new proposal “strongly condemns” violence from all parties—a statement present in previous Russian drafts, which were rejected by various parties because it placed protesters and the assaulting government on the same platform. The new resolution further condemns the “disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities,” which has created a new, level starting point among parties at the UN.
Russia’s proposal comes after as many as 27 security forces were killed by army defectors on Thursday, in the latest headline-grabbing occurrence of violence in Syria. Russia called emergency talks of the 15 nation body on Syria, in a move that French envoy to the UN called “an extraordinary event.” Other envoys party to the talks are not as optimistic.
British envoy Michael Tatham signalled his readiness to work with the Russian draft, but emphasised that “we need a Security Council resolution that matches the gravity of the situation on the ground in Syria. And in our view the text circulated by Russia does not do this."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also noted that "there are some issues in it that we would not be able to support,” as the Russian draft presents " a seeming parity between the government and peaceful protesters and then other Syrians who are trying to defend themselves.”
The Security Council recently received renewed calls for intervention in Syria, when UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay raised the estimated civillian death toll over 5,000, citing that “ruthless repression” may soon plunge Syria into “civil war.”
Regarding the lack of sanctions in their draft, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that sanctions are counterproductive. But at the very least, in the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Russians “are recognizing that this is a matter that needs to go to the Security Council,” which means a UN resolution on Syria may be further down the pipeline than initially anticipated.