Repressive Regimes Rally Around Syria at the U.N., But Little Support From Islamic Nations

By Patrick Goodenough | February 17, 2012 | 4:43am EST

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari asks to speak during the U.N. General Assembly’s meeting to consider a draft resolution on his country, in New York, on February 16, 2012. (UN Photo by Devra Berkowitz)

( – Some of the world’s most repressive governments rallied around Syria on Thursday as the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution condemning “widespread and systematic” violations by the Assad regime and urged it to cease the bloodshed.

Damascus found little support in the Islamic world, however, with Iran the only fellow Islamic country to vote against the resolution.

Joining Syria and Iran in voting “no” were communist and leftist regimes in Asia and Latin America – China, North Korea, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela – and three other autocratic countries: Russia, Belarus and Zimbabwe.

The resolution, introduced by Egypt on behalf of Arab states, passed by 137 votes to 12, with 17 abstentions. Among those abstaining was Lebanon, whose government includes Hezbollah, a Shi’ite group closely allied to Syria and Iran.

Those opposing the resolution did so despite the inclusion of language stressing “a strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic” and despite the fact it condemned violence irrespective of origin and called for all parties – “including armed groups” – to stop violence and reprisals immediately.

Without calling explicitly for President Bashar Assad to step down, the text voiced support for an Arab League plan to “facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system.”

The resolution is similar to one considered by the U.N. Security Council earlier this month, which Russia and China vetoed.

The draft was co-sponsored by 14 Islamic states – Bahrain, Comoros, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates – and 14 others – Andorra, Australia, Britain, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Montenegro, Norway, Panama, South Korea and the United States.

Syrian ambassador Bashar Jaafari and a colleague watch the vote tally as the U.N. General Assembly votes on a resolution condemning “widespread and systematic” violations by the Assad regime. (Screenshot: U.N. Webcast)

Syrian envoy Bashar Jaafari railed against the Arab League, calling it politically and morally “broken” and accusing the Arab Gulf states of taking the bloc hostage.

He also said the U.N. was betraying its own principles, warning that the end result of its intervention in countries’ internal affairs would be the collapse of the world body.

Syria was joined by Iran and Venezuela in seeking to divert attention to a more traditional target of the General Assembly – Israel.

Jaafari said the Arab League initiative would play into Israel’s hands, at the expense of the Palestinians’ aspirations; Venezuela’s envoy said the General Assembly should rather be concerned with Israeli rights violations and Palestinian statehood (as well as ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba); Iran’s delegate said the Syrian crisis was “serving the interests of the Zionist regime.”

U.N. officials estimate that more than 5,400 Syrians have been killed since the uprising against Assad began last March.

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