With U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in attendance, an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council debated a new resolution calling on the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad end its increasingly violent anti-insurgency military campaign in the countries cities, release all political prisoners, and begin a transition toward democratic elections and the end of Assad’s 11-year autocratic reign. (For video of the full meeting, click here.)
The meeting began with Nabil El Araby, the secretary-general of the League of Arab States (LAS), briefing the council on current situation in Syria and the draft resolution prepared by LAS member-state Morocco and based on an earlier LAS-approved plan.
At that point, representatives of the Security Council had an opportunity to make statements. Secretary Clinton, speaking for the United States, called for passage of the draft resolution and condemned Assad’s government, which she said was responsible for the deaths of over 5,400 civilians:
We all know that change is coming to Syria. Despite its ruthless tactics, the Assad regime’s reign of terror will end and the people of Syria will have the chance to chart their own destiny. The question for us is: How many more innocent civilians will die before this country is able to move forward toward the kind of future it deserves? Unfortunately, it appears as though the longer this continues, the harder it will be to rebuild once President Assad and his regime is transitioned and something new and better takes its place. (Full text of her remarks are here.)
Chances for the resolution’s passage hinge on the disposition of Security Council permanent member Russia, which as close ties to Syria and can wield its veto power to block any council action. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin suggested leaders of the Syrian government and opposition groups meet in Moscow for mediated negotiations (something that the rebels up to this point have refused).
Unofficially, reports are that Russia worries a new council resolution could open the door for outside military intervention in Syria, much like what happened in Libya after the Security Council passed a resolution condemning Libyan leader Moamar Gaddhafi and authorizing the use of force to prevent a humanitarian crisis. Secretary Clinton addressed such concerns in her remarks:
Now, I know that some members here may be concerned that the Security Council could be headed toward another Libya. That is a false analogy. Syria is a unique situation that requires its own approach, tailored to the specific circumstances occurring there. And that is exactly what the Arab League has proposed – a path for a political transition that would preserve Syria’s unity and institutions.
International Debates covered the beginning of the Syrian uprising in-depth in its September 2011 issue, Syria Crackdown, and we will continue to cover UN Security Council deliberations on the issue and any action the body may take to resolve what is now on the verge of becoming a civil war in the heart of the Middle East.