Security Council Makes Toothless Show on Syria

March 21, 2012  

The UN Security Council on Wednesday called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to immediately implement proposals by international envoy Kofi Annan.

The nonbinding statement approved by the 15 council members was described as “a strong message of support for the Syrian opposition” after a year of deadlock at the world body.

The statement contained Annan’s proposals, including an immediate ceasefire by the Syrian government, a daily two hour halt to fighting to evacuate the injured and provide humanitarian aid, and inclusive political talks.

In a bid to win support from Russia and China, which have twice vetoed European and US-backed resolutions condemning Assad’s brutal suppression of the popular uprising against his regime, references to “further measures” were eliminated.

“Further measures,” is considered an allusion to international sanctions or direct military intervention, both of which Moscow and Beijing – with billions tied to Assad’s regime – oppose.

Instead, the presidential statement now asks Annan to update the council regularly on the progress of his mission, saying “in the light of these reports, the Security Council will consider further steps as appropriate.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that the Syria crisis is the most pressing issue facing the world today. The UN estimates more than 8,000 people have been killed in the past year.

“We have no time to waste, no time to lose. Just one minute, one hour delay will mean more and more people dead,”  Ban told reporters.

A presidential statement, which needs approval from all council members, becomes part of the council’s permanent record. It is stronger than a press statement, which doesn’t.

Unlike resolutions, neither statement is legally binding.

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