UN condemns Syrian government, backs role of opposition in transition talks

UN condemns Syrian government, backs role of opposition in transition talks

UNITED NATIONS - Agence France-Presse
UN condemns Syrian government, backs role of opposition in transition talks

Bashar Ja'afari, Syria's Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks before a vote on Syria at the UN General Assembly on May 15. AFP photo

The UN General Assembly on May 15 condemned the Syrian government's "escalation" of the country's war and backed the role of the opposition coalition in transition talks.

But Russia, Syria's key diplomatic ally, fiercely opposed the resolution and branded it a potential obstacle to plans to hold peace negotiations in Geneva next month.

Only 107 countries in the 193 member assembly backed the text, down from 133 when the last Syria vote was held in August.

The United States, Britain and France joined Arab countries in supporting the resolution, drawn up by Qatar and other Arab states, which expressed "outrage at the rapidly increasing death toll." The number of Syrians estimated to have did in the conflict is now estimated at more than 80,000 by Syrian activists.

Russia, China, Syria, Iran and North Korea were among 12 countries to oppose the resolution and 59, including South Africa, India and Brazil, abstained.

The assembly "strongly condemns the continued escalation in the use by the Syrian authorities of heavy weapons", including "ballistic missiles" against civilians, the resolution said.

On political efforts to end the war, the assembly demanded all sides work to "implement rapidly" a communique agreed by the major powers in Geneva in June last year laying out the steps toward a transitional government.

SNC 'effective representative interlocutor'

The resolution welcomed the opposition Syrian National Coalition "as effective representative interlocutors needed for a transition." Russia and the United States have agreed to press for a new international conference on the war and Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin wrote to all 193 UN members ahead of the vote to slam the resolution as "one-sided and biased".

He said that "supporting such a resolution will be a serious blow to all attempts to bring the Syrian sides to the negotiating table." Western nations strongly backed the resolution, however.

"The consequences of this crisis are growing more dire not only within Syria, but across the region," said deputy US ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo, who added that backing the resolution was in line with efforts to set up a peace conference.

France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud said the resolution would help the opposition to unite for any peace conference.

"This is a substantive draft that reflects the horrific situation on the ground and pushes for a political solution," said Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig.

Qatar's UN ambassador Meshal Hamad Al-Thani called the resolution "fair and balanced" but the text was slammed by Syria's UN ambassador Bashar Jaafari as an attempt "to escalate the crisis and fuel violence in Syria." He said it seeks to "legitimize providing weapons to the terrorist groups in Syria." The UN assembly passed a resolution condemning Syria in August last year with 133 countries in favour, 12 votes against and 31 abstentions.