Russia opposes U.N. vote on Syria as Arabs urge implementation of League plan

Russia had warned that it would block any U.N. resolution calling for Assad to step down over his crackdown on an 11-month uprising estimated to have killed more than 5,400. (Reuters)

Russia had warned that it would block any U.N. resolution calling for Assad to step down over his crackdown on an 11-month uprising estimated to have killed more than 5,400.
Russia has opposed a draft resolution on Syria at the U.N. General Assembly, saying it focuses entirely on Bashar Assad’s regime and fails to address the armed opposition, a top Russian diplomat said Thursday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said the new document differs little from a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that Russia and China vetoed earlier this month.

“We can’t vote for that resolution, because it still remains unbalanced,” Gatilov said, according to Russian news agencies. “It directs all the demands at the government, and says nothing about the opposition.”

Arab League countries, meanwhile, called on the U.N. for the immediate implementation of the Arab plan on Syria and the adoption of the General Assembly draft resolution on Syria.

General Assembly resolutions cannot be vetoed and are nonbinding, but they reflect world opinion on major issues. Supporters of the Arab-sponsored resolution hope for a high “yes” vote to deliver a strong message to Assad’s regime.

Arab countries have rejected amendments to the resolution proposed by Russia.

Gatilov said a U.N. Security Council resolution would be required to send any U.N. peacekeepers to Syria.

Russia had warned that it would block any U.N. resolution calling for Assad to step down over his crackdown on an 11-month uprising estimated to have killed more than 5,400.

Moscow has maintained close ties with Damascus since the Cold War, when Syria was led by the current leader’s father, Hafez Assad.

Earlier on Thursday, Russia asked for a number of changes to the draft resolution on the crisis in Syria scheduled for the U.N. General Assembly vote.

One of the amendments Russia wants is on a paragraph referring to the Arab League plan of Jan. 22 that calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to his vice president. Moscow opposes any change to the regime imposed from outside, according to AFP.

Another change would link the return of Syrian troops to their barracks to an “end of attacks by armed groups against state institutions.” Russia has insisted on acknowledging an opposition role in the violent unrest.

Russia also wanted the opposition “to dissociate themselves from armed groups engaged in acts of violence,” and not mention Syrian government abuses against civilians.

“If you remember their (Russian) amendments to the Security Council resolution, they look pretty familiar,” a western diplomat commented, referring to the draft that was vetoed in the Security Council Feb. 4. In the end Russia vetoed the draft as did China.

The Arab group, which is formally responsible for the draft in the General Assembly, declined to include the Russian changes.

(english.alarabiya.net / 16.02.2012)

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