“Final” 30 Days for Syria: UNSC unanimously extends UNSMIS on a ‘hybrid’ resolution
July 21, 2012 (TSR) - The UN Security Council (UNSC) members unanimously passed on Friday a balanced resolution on Friday for a technical extension for the UN observer mission in Syria for 30 days as the previous one expires on July 20.
The approval of the rollover resolution, which extended the mandate of the UN mission in Syria that was about to expire by midnight on Friday, came just one day after China and Russia again vetoed a Western-proposed draft resolution that would have threatened sanctions on Syria if Damascus did not withdraw its troops from populated areas.
The two permanent UNSC members strongly opposed, after the veto on Thursday, some Western powers for hastily submitting a biased resolution for a vote without heeding their reasonable concerns.
Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Li Baodong (R) and Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin shake hands before a vote on a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria at U.N. headquarters on July 19, 2012 in New York City. (Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP
The British-drafted resolution was adopted unanimously on Friday after it underwent revision to allow for a possible renewal of the mission; a point which had not been included in the original draft.
Britain offered a 30-day extension with the condition that Assad withdraws all troops from residential neighborhoods.
On Thursday Russia and China vetoed the Chapter 7 resolution drafted by Britain, which would also allow the council to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had earlier said that his county will veto the UK-backed proposal that would extend the UN observer mission in Syria for a “final” 30 days.
Russia had expressed support for a Pakistani proposal that would extend the mission for 45 days with no conditions and the possibility of further renewals.
But after closed-door consultations called by Pakistan, all 15 council members went into emergency consultations to avoid a second Russia and China veto on a Syria within a span of 24 hours and a fourth since the start of the crisis in March last year and reached agreement on a revised British text, a hybrid of the two proposals.
The rollover resolution now gives the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) a final 30-day extension and said the future mandate of the 300-strong UN supervision mission would depend on whether the UN could confirm the Syrian government has withdrawn heavy weapons from populated areas and all parties in the country have significantly reduced the violence.
“We welcomed the resolution just adopted by the Security Council to renew the mandate of UNSMIS,” said Li Baodong, China’s permanent representative to the UN. “Actually, this is what China suggested from the very beginning: to have a technical rollover of UNSMIS by consensus.“
Li said China is happy to see that its suggestion has been taken into consideration. It is a very positive development and the council has come back to the “right track” for political solutions to deal with the Syria crisis, he added.
“We believe the Syria issue must be resolved through political means, and military means would go nowhere,” Li said.
Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said that the resolution was called ‘final’ because some members of the UN Security Council wanted “to send a political signal” and “to put some pressure on both sides,” but the resolutions may be prolonged if both sides halted the violence.
“We are glad because, first of all, the resolution is balanced and second, we appreciate the role the UN mission observers have played and will play in the Syrian conflict. We were the initiators who launched this mission, that is why we believe that is important to extend it,” Russia’s Ambassador to the UN said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also said in a statement that the extension of the UN Syria mission “is necessary at such a critical moment.“
Russia said that they will continue to support a political settlement of the crisis in Syria, based on mediation efforts made by UN-Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan, and a Syrian-led transition set out in a meeting attended by world powers in Geneva late last month.
However, some Western powers including the United States and the European Union (EU), show no sign of giving up their attempts to threaten the Assad government with sanctions despite their previous failures at the UN.
Pierre Vimont, executive secretary general of the European External Action Service (EEAS), told the media on Friday that EU foreign ministers will discuss new sanctions against Syria next Monday.
He said the additional sanctions would be imposed against “individual designation, whether personalities or entities,” and also include the reinforcement of the arms embargo inspection.
The EU has approved 16 rounds of sanctions against Syria since May 2011, bringing the total number of people subject to sanctions to 129 while 49 entities are now affected by an EU asset freeze.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said Friday that the United States “will intensify our work with a diverse range of partners outside the Security Council to bring pressure to bear on the Assad regime and to deliver assistance to those in need.“
Rice also pessimistically described Friday’s resolution for the 30-day-extension of UNSMIS as simply a plan for the UN observers to withdraw as the situation on the ground was unlike to change during the period so as to trigger future renewals.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin refuted Rice’s predictions, saying the resolution was not about withdrawal, but the “continuation of the mission.“
Moscow also said any attempts to deal with the 16-month Syrian crisis by circumventing the UN would be to no avail and would also undermine the UN’s authority, according to Russia’s presidential press office.
Russia had initially threatened to veto the British proposal as Moscow preferred the Pakistani draft resolution for its balanced wording.
He stressed that the main thing is that the resolution contains calls to both sides to end the violence.
The UN monitoring mission in Syria was deployed 90 days ago as part of international envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan to end the 16-month conflict that has killed thousands.
Meanwhile, Syrian troops launched counterattacks across the country in a bid to root out the opposition forces and restore law and order, the pan-Arab Mayadeen TV reported on Friday.
The TV station quoted officials as saying that Syrian flags were raised again Friday above the border crossings with Iraq, a day after armed rebels announced that they took over control of the border points.
Also, Lebanese Manar TV quoted Syrian Deputy Defense Minister Talal Tlass as saying that a “cleansing campaign has already started and good news will be heard soon.“
Tlass reportedly made the remarks while attending an official funeral procession on Friday for top officers who were killed in Wednesday’s bombing in Damascus.
Also on Friday, Syria’s state TV said the government troops had regained control of the restive Midan neighborhood of the capital Damascus, and that “terrorist groups” had been taken out “completely.”0 Activists, however, said the rebels withdrew from Midan to “save the civilians from being killed due to the severity of clashes and the army shelling of the neighborhood.”
Hundreds of people were reported to have been killed over the past days in the fierce clashes.
During a tour of Midan organized by the Syrian Information Ministry, Xinhua reporters saw dead bodies of bearded fighters lying on the ground, all dressed in black. Many old apartments were damaged or destroyed.
The streets in Midan were almost deserted. Mosques there suffered serious damage as the armed rebels had sought refuge inside the holy places.
Many of the arrested gunmen were tied up and on their knees in line, waiting to be transported to prison. Uniformed Free Syrian Army rebels were also seen along with large quantities of seized ammunition and weapons.
The continuous and bloody clashes have already forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians out of their country and the number is still rising.
Up to 30,000 Syrian refugees may have crossed into Lebanon over the past 48 hours, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said Friday.
“So far reports vary between 8,500 and 30,000 people who may have crossed in the last 48 hours,” said Melissa Fleming, chief spokesperson of the UNHCR.
In all, 120,000 Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict had sought protection in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey as of Wednesday, the UNHCR said, though the number given by these governments is much higher.
Apart from the Syrian refugees in the surrounding region, it was estimated that one million people may have been forced to flee across the country’s borders due to the escalation of violence.