Pressure on Russia to broker deal after stalemate at UN
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With a UN peace plan for Syria in tatters following a double veto by Russia and China, Syrian opposition groups say it is now up to Moscow to broker a deal with President Bashar al-Assad to end the bloodshed.
Syrian opposition groups piled pressure on Russia on Sunday after Moscow vetoed a UN Security Council resolution aimed at ending the unrest in Syria.
The draft resolution, which called for an immediate end to the violence, had stopped short of backing an Arab League demand for President Bashar al-Assad to step down in an effort to head off a Russian veto.
But Russia and China refused to sanction the text, insisting it was "imbalanced" against the Syrian president.
Their decision sparked outrage among the international community and incensed Syrian opposition groups, who say it is now up to Moscow to broker a deal to end the bloodshed in which around 6,000 Syrians are thought to have died.
Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to visit Syria on Tuesday along with Mikhail Fradkov chief of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).
Haitham al-Manaa of the National Committee for Democratic Change (CNCD), Syria’s second largest opposition group, told FRANCE 24 Russia was now the key player.
“The Russians need to give the final ‘hit’ to Assad. Without the Russians Assad does not even have enough to feed his army,” said al-Manaa.
“We need to find a position that reassures the Russians. We need to show them it’s not going to be Libya all over again. We are at a difficult moment. The Arab League must include Russia, it can no longer ignore it,” he added.
‘Licence to kill’
Al-Manaa, who heads the foreign division of the CNCD, said the UN Security Council was now redundant.
“It’s time to put an end to the Security Council’s power. The right to veto should be ended. It is a denial of democracy,” he said.
The double veto came just a day after the city of Homs was bombarded by shells and mortars, which left over 200 civilians dead. Assad denied his forces were responsible for the bloodshed.
It is not the first time China and Russia, a long-term ally of Syria, have vetoed a UN draft resolution on Syria. In October last year they blocked a similar attempt to denounce Bashar al-Assad’s violent crackdown on the 11-month popular uprising.
The Turkish-based Syrian National Council (SNC), the largest coalition of Assad opponents, said the action taken by Russia and China had given the Syrian president a “licence to kill”.
The opposition movement called on Moscow and Beijing to “immediately reassess their positions”, saying Russia and China would be held accountable for the escalation of violence.
But unlike al-Manaa and the CNDC, the SNC believes the solution still lies with the UN. The council said it will now approach the UN General Assembly to “adopt an international resolution that supports the rights of our people”.
Focus on Damascus delegation
The UN’s peace plan lay in tatters on Saturday evening, despite days of tense negotiations in New York aimed at bringing the Russians on board.
Despite concessions made by the West, Russia still believed the resolution did not make enough demands of Syria’s armed opposition groups and only concentrated on Assad’s regime.
The Russian authorities have since responded to fierce criticism from France, Britain and the US, blaming the West for the failure to reach an agreement at the Security Council.
Following the vote, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov wrote on Twitter: “The authors of the draft Syria resolution, unfortunately, did not want to undertake an extra effort and come to a consensus.”
The eyes of the international community and the hopes of Syrians will now shift towards the Russian delegation due to visit Damascus on Tuesday.
Little detail about the nature of the trip has been released, though Russia will be under intense pressure to come up with an alternative plan to end the bloodshed in Syria.
“After making such a stand at the Security Council, Russia will be hoping Lavrov can steam into Damascus and emerge as the peacemaker in this whole crisis,” Shaun Walker, Moscow correspondent for British daily The Independent, told FRANCE 24.
“Russia is probably still hoping for a solution where Assad can stay in power with some concessions’, he added.
How to end the violence in Syria was the main question on the minds of international delegates at the 2012 Security Conference in Munich on Sunday.
Reporting from the convention, FRANCE 24’s international affairs editor Douglas Herbert said "no concrete solution" had emerged despite much talk.
“The closest they came was a proposal by US senator Joseph Lieberman who suggested arming the Free Syrian Army,” Herbert said.
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