April 4, 2012
April 4, 2012
The U.N. Security Council will have to take “very urgent and serious” action if Syria fails to meet an April 10 deadline to halt its military operations in protest cities, U.S. ambassador Susan Rice said Tuesday.
U.N. Security Council members negotiated a statement backing the April 10 deadline that U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan says Syria has accepted, as fierce clashes were reported between government forces and rebels.
Rice reaffirmed that the United States and other countries doubted that President Bashir al-Assad would end hostilities and called for increased pressure on the government.
“Should the government of Syria use this window, rather than to de-escalate, to intensify the violence, it will be most unfortunate and it will be certainly our view that the Security Council will need to respond to that failure in a very urgent and serious way,” she said.
Britain, France and the United States have distributed a draft presidential statement, a copy of which has been received by Al Arabiya, endorsing the April 10 deadline. The first formal negotiations on the text with the other 12 council members started on Tuesday.
Rice, the Security Council president for April, said the statement was intended to “underscore the central importance of the Syrian government adhering to its commitment to halt all offensive actions by April 10.”
France’s U.N. envoy Gerard Araud said the text could be agreed by late Wednesday or early Thursday.
While the U.S. envoy said the Security Council was “united” behind Annan’s six-point peace plan for Syria, Russia has already signaled that it opposes any “artificial” deadline against Assad.
Russia and China have vetoed two resolutions on Syria, using their powers as permanent members of the council, and took a tough line on the wording in statements agreed so far.
The statement prepared by Britain, France and the United States, would call for Syria to “immediately” implement the withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from cities and warn of “further measures as appropriate” if Syria did fail to meet the deadline.
The possible “further measures” phrase was already included in a statement backing Annan’s peace plan which Russia and China agreed in March.
The U.N. General Assembly hopes to be briefed late next week by Annan on his mission to end the violence in Syria where a year-long assault on anti-government citizens has brought the country to the brink of civil war.
The president of the General Assembly, Qatar’s U.N. Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, told reporters that he had suggested that Annan brief the 193-nation assembly after the April 10 deadline.
“I mentioned maybe (April) 12, 13,” said Nasser, adding that he expected Annan to confirm a date shortly. “He told me his traveling schedule is very tight and he wants to do it as soon as possible.”
Unlike the Security Council, which can issue legally binding resolutions and authorize sanctions or military interventions, the General Assembly’s decisions are recommendations with no legal force.
Still, a General Assembly briefing on Syria would maintain international pressure on Assad to keep his promise to implement Annan’s peace plan, which calls for an end to violence and dialogue aimed at a “political transition.”
Annan’s mandate is based on a Feb. 16 resolution passed by the General Assembly, which endorsed an Arab League plan calling on Assad to step aside.
By AL ARABIYA WITH AGENCIES