Despite Thousands More Deaths in Syria, Support for U.N. Resolution Weakens

August 6, 2012 - 5:12 AM
UN syria

The U.N. General Assembly adopts a resolution on Friday, August 3, 2012, condemning the violence in Syria and urging all sides of the conflict to immediately cease armed violence. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 133-12, with 31 abstentions. (UN Photo by J.C. McIlwaine)

(CNSNews.com) – The death toll in the Syrian conflict has tripled over the past six months, but the number of countries supporting a United Nations resolution Friday calling for an end to the violence was slightly lower than the number voting in favor of an earlier measure last February.

Even through the new General Assembly resolution urged all sides to immediately halt armed violence, the number of countries voting “yes” was 133 – four fewer than voted in favor of a measure passed on February 16.

Some of the difference stems from various smaller countries being absent during one or both of the two votes, but 10 member states changed their vote from “yes” in February to abstaining on Friday, most prominent among them India and Pakistan.

With one exception, the same 12 countries that opposed the Feb. 16 resolution rallied around the Assad regime again on Friday.

Those “no” votes came from Syria itself; its closest ally Iran; its defenders in the Security Council, Russia and China; and a handful of other repressive and leftist regimes – Belarus, Bolivia, Burma, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

The only change in the “no” camp since February saw Burma shift from abstaining earlier to voting against Friday’s resolution, while Ecuador moved from voting “no” in February to abstaining on Friday.

At the time the resolution was voted on in February, U.N. officials estimated that more than 5,400 Syrians had been killed since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad began in March 2011.

As of a fortnight ago U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said almost 17,000 people had died.

Friday’s vote came two weeks after the Security Council failed to agree on a Western-led resolution on Syria that threatened sanctions if the violence persisted, with Russia and China – for the third time in nine months – exercising a joint veto to kill the measure.

The General Assembly resolution, presented by Saudi Arabia on behalf of Arab states, deplored the Security Council’s paralysis. It condemned violence in Syria “irrespective of where it comes from, including terrorist acts,” and demanded that all parties cease fire.

It also condemned “the increasing use by the Syrian authorities of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters, in population centers and the failure to withdraw its troops and the heavy weapons to their barracks …”

It demanded that the Syrian government not use its chemical or biological weapons in the conflict or transfer them to any non-state party.

Both the Aug. 3 and Feb. 16 resolutions did not explicitly call for Assad to step down, but voiced support for a political transition process. The joint U.N. and Arab League envoy promoting such a transition, Kofi Annan, announced Thursday he was resigning with effect from the end of August.

During Friday’s debate envoys for Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea and others complained about interference in Syria’s internal affairs while Iran said there was a malicious desire among certain countries to topple the Syrian regime.

Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja’afari called the resolution “misleading and hysterical” and said it would escalate violence in the region.

Ja’afari seemed particularly incensed by remarks made by the Israeli representative, Ron Prosor, who said Assad had never had legitimacy to rule, and accused Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah of offering the Syrian leader “guidance on how to butcher the Syrian people more effectively.”

Ja’afari accused Israel of state terrorism and said the resolution served the interests of the “Israeli aggressor.”

Iran’s delegate, Mohammad Khazaee, also complained about the Israeli’s reference to Ahmadinejad, declaring that Israel was “the only destabilizing entity in the Middle East.”