Syria diplomacy gains pace

Syria diplomacy gains pace

Syria diplomacy gains pace

France’s President Sarkozy (L) welcomes British PM Cameron, at the Elysee palace in Paris. Sarkozy says the revolution will not be led from outside in Syria. AP Photo

The diplomacy between world powers speeded up Feb. 17, after the U.N. General Assembly intensified the pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad the day before by overwhelmingly approving a resolution that endorses an Arab League plan calling for him to step aside.

“Today the U.N. General Assembly sent a clear message to the people of Syria: The world is with you,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said in a statement. “Bashar al-Assad has never been more isolated.”

The resolution, similar to one Russia and China vetoed in the Security Council on Feb. 4, received 137 votes in favor, 12 against and 17 abstentions, although three countries said their votes failed to register on the electronic board. Russia and China were among those opposing the resolution, which was drafted by Saudi Arabia and submitted by Egypt on behalf of Arab states.

Unlike in the Security Council, there are no vetoes in the General Assembly, but its decisions lack the legal force of council resolutions. The resolution said the assembly “fully supports” the Arab League plan and urges U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a special envoy to Syria. It also condemns Damascus for “widespread and systematic violations of human rights.”

The Arab League has called for the establishment of a joint U.N.-Arab League peacekeeping mission for Syria, but Western powers have reacted coolly to the idea and the Feb. 16 resolution did not endorse it. Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari rejected the resolution, telling the assembly it was part of a plot to overthrow Syria’s government and allow the “terrorist” opposition to take over the country.

In the meantime, a key United States Senate panel unanimously approved a resolution Feb. 16 strongly condemning Syria’s “brutal and unjustifiable” use of force against civilians and called for a review of legal options to hold regime officials accountable. The general assembly’s decision came after the meeting of the French foreign minister with his Russian counterpart in an attempt to change Russia’s stance on Syria. France said Feb. 16 compromise with Russia at the U.N. Security Council was possible to end the violence in Syria in the short term and Paris was ready to work on a new resolution to provide humanitarian aid to Syrians. Speaking after a meeting with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov said he had not yet heard enough details from Juppe about the plan.

Britain, France mull more support to Syrian opposition

The leaders of Britain and France said Feb. 17 the Syrian opposition needed more international support to resist a deadly government crackdown. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said “we cannot bring about a Syrian revolution [...] if the Syrian revolution does not make an effort to rally together and organize so that we can better help them.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron, at Sarkozy’s side after meetings Feb. 17 in Paris, said Britain and France were working “to see what more we can do” to help the Syrian opposition. Cameron said Britain was sending food rations for 20,000 people in Syria.

Turkey may host meeting on Syria

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey welcomed suggestions to host a second Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul, in a telephone call late Feb. 16 with British counterpart David Cameron to discuss Syrian turmoil, Erdoğan’s office said. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) accused Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu of using humanitarian considerations as a cover for an intervention in Syria.

“Entering another country’s territory and setting up corridors is a declaration of war – even if that’s based on humanitarian considerations,” the CHP’s Faruk Loğoğlu said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu held several diplomatic phone calls on the issue of Syria. Davutoğlu spoke with Jordanian Prime Minister Awn Shawkat al-Khasawnah. He also spoke with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jasim Bin Jaber al-Thani by phone, diplomatic officials said Feb. 16. Davutoğlu and his Kenyan counterpart Moses Wetangula discussed the latest situation in Somalia and Turkish-Kenyan relations in their meeting Feb. 16.

Compiled from Reuters, AA and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.

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