ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
The potential collapse of the Annan plan for Syria is likely to push the international community to seek legitimacy for action against Damascus and consider implementing the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) principle if Russia and China veto a new Security Council resolution on Syria, according to a Western diplomat.

“The failure of the Annan plan would definitely increase pressure on the Russians and Chinese to get out of the way. People will naturally say this attempt to engage [Bashar] al-Assad diplomatically is not working because he is not interested,” a Western diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.
The Syrian government was not willing to withdraw from cities late yesterday, just hours before the deadline for the implementation of the Annan plan was set to expire. With growing violence in the country, prominent member countries of the Friends of the Syrian People group have already begun discussing the post-Annan period.

According to diplomatic sources, two separate diplomatic tracks will be pursued. In the first instance, efforts will be concentrated on obtaining a resolution from the U.N. Security Council. “There will be pressure put on Russia and China to lead another [U.N. Security Council] resolution that would come for a vote. It will be very difficult for anyone to argue that it is not good. It will soon have been a year since the turmoil began, and the pace of the killing is not decreasing, it’s increasing,” the diplomat said, adding that with the number of Syrians fleeing their homeland increasing every day, “it does not look as though things are getting better.”

In the case of continuing Russian and Chinese vetoes in the Security Council, the international community would seek to implement the principle of “Responsibility to Protect,” a U.N. initiative focusing on preventing and halting genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. It foresees strengthening the U.N.’s early-warning capacity and the Peacebuilding Commission, as well as adopting criteria for the use of force to prevent the abuse of power. However, there are still debates as to whether the R2P gives the international community the right to use military force against a sovereign state.

The second track foresees more sanctions being imposed by the Friends of the Syrian People. The recognition of the Syrian National Council as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in the first instance is seen as inevitable. However, that move would be followed by tougher sanctions to be imposed by the Friends of the Syrian People’s Sanctions Working Group, which is set to meet in France in April.

No unilateral measures

Apart from multilateral moves, Turkey, with its 910-kilometer-long border with Syria, is considering taking some unilateral actions against its southern neighbor. In the event of a massive influx of refugees over its borders, Turkey could establish a buffer zone along the frontier. However, because the implementation of such a zone would require a military presence, diplomatic sources prefer to use more cautious language, and only said “plans for any scenario are already in place.”

At this very critical junction, Turkey has been advised by some Western powers not to take unilateral action along the border so as not to change the course of the crisis and turn it into bilateral conflict between Ankara and Damascus.