July 18, 2012
July 18, 2012
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon is expected to press China’s leaders Wednesday to back tougher action to stop violence in Syria before a Security Council showdown over a resolution threatening sanctions.
Ban will meet Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing before the vote on the Western resolution that links the renewal of a U.N. mission in Syria with a threat to impose sanctions if the regime does not pull back heavy weapons.
But it will be a difficult task for the U.N. secretary general to persuade Beijing, which has repeatedly warned against outside intervention in Syria, to back the action being pushed for by Western powers.
China, one of five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, has twice joined with President Bashar al-Assad’s main ally Russia in blocking resolutions at the council.
Ban has already urged China to use its influence to back a peace plan by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who is calling on the Security Council to order “consequences” for any failure to carry out his six-point plan.
Assad has agreed to the plan, which includes the withdrawal of heavy weapons, but failed to carry it out.
As Ban headed for China, Beijing’s determination to stick to its guns was underlined when a top, state-run newspaper again warned against international intervention.
“The life of Syria’s current political leadership can only be determined by the Syrian people. This is an internal matter and the international community should respect that,” the People’s Daily said in an editorial.
Russia has branded as “blackmail” the bid to link renewal of the U.N. mission to the threat of sanctions, and had said it would block the new resolution, instead proposing its own draft.
But Moscow struck a more conciliatory tone on Tuesday after Annan met Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin vowed to do everything to support Annan’s plan for ending the violence, while Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he could “see no reason why we cannot also agree at the U.N. Security Council. We are ready for this.”
The current 90-day U.N. mission in Syria ends on Friday and if no resolution is passed by then, it would have to shut down this weekend, according to diplomats.
Following talks with Hu, Ban will also meet Vice President Xi Jinping — set to become China’s president next year — as well as top foreign policy advisor Dai Bingguo and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, diplomats said.
Ban, who is officially in Beijing for a China-Africa summit, has said that international inaction on Syria would be giving “a license for further massacres.”
In Syria on Tuesday, troops blasted Damascus neighborhoods with helicopter gunships and tank fire, witnesses said, after rebels announced an escalation of their battle for control of the capital.
Fighting between Assad’s forces and rebels of the Free Syrian Army has raged in Damascus since Sunday, with some activists saying it marked a “turning point” in the 16-month revolt against the regime.
Syrian opposition warns
Syrians will seek new ways to confront Assad’s regime if the U.N. Security Council fails to threaten sanctions, the main Syrian opposition group said ahead of a vote showdown Wednesday between the major powers.
Representatives of the Syrian National Council (SNC) met ambassadors from the 15-nation Security Council, including Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin, in a bid to persuade them to back sanctions.
The group warned that it will seek alternative ways to defend civilians if the U.N. Security Council does not threaten sanctions over the 16-month-old conflict in which activists say more than 17,000 people have died.
Basma Kodmani, the SNC’s head of foreign affairs, said the western resolution was “a very last chance for breathing life” into the peace plan of U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
“Should the current attempts fail, the Syrian National Council will explore other alternatives with international and regional friends in order to provide humanitarian protection to the Syrian people,” Kodmani told a press conference.
18th general defects to Turkey
Meanwhile, a Syrian general and several soldiers crossed into Turkey on Monday, a Turkish diplomat told AFP, bringing the number of defections by generals from Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime to at least 18.
Turkey has become home to dozens of defectors who have crossed the border and formed the Free Syrian Army in opposition to Assad’s regime.
The latest defection brings to 18 the number of generals who have fled into Turkey since the conflict in Syria erupted in March last year.
The Turkish diplomat, who also spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday that almost 42,700 Syrian refugees are now living in camps near the border with Syria.
“We are seeing an increase in the number of Syrians arriving in Turkey, whether they are civilians or military,” the diplomat said.
In Washington, a U.S. State Department official who asked not to be named said a total of 1,280 Syrians had fled to Turkey overnight, including the general and other soldiers.
“Clearly the regime is panicking at this point,” the U.S. official added.
Source: Al Arabiya