Security Council condemns Syrian attacks on civilians



Demonstrators shout slogans against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in front of the Syrian Embassy in Ankara August 1, 2011. (Photo: Reuters)
The UN Security Council condemned Syrian authorities on Wednesday for attacking civilians and committing widespread human rights violations. After more than three months of deadlock over the escalating violence in Syria, the council adopted a presidential statement criticizing the crackdown by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military forces.
Assad’s regime has been using force since mid-March to put down citizen protests demanding political reforms. Activists say that some 1,700 civilians have been killed.

European and US council members had been pressing for a resolution that would strongly condemn Syria. But Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa had been arguing that condemnation wouldn’t promote negotiations, promised reforms by Assad, and an end to the violence.

The trigger for the council to start negotiations on a text was the military assault launched by they Syrian government over the weekend against the city of Hama, 130 miles (210 kilometers) north of the capital Damascus, which has a history of defiance.

Lebanon, a neighbor and close ally of Syria, didn’t block adoption of the statement, which requires approval by all 15 council members, but it invoked a procedure last used 35 years ago and dissociated itself from the text.

Lebanon’s deputy ambassador Caroline Ziade told the council after the statement was read at a formal meeting by India’s UN Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the current president, that it “does not help in addressing the current situation,” and therefore “Lebanon dissociates itself” from the statement.

The council adopted the presidential statement to avoid having to call a formal vote on a resolution. While weaker than a resolution, a presidential statement still becomes part of the Security Council’s record.

The presidential statement expresses “grave concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria, and expresses profound regret at the death of many hundreds of people.”

It also expresses regret at “the lack of progress” by Syrian authorities in implementing reforms and calls on the government to keep its promises.

Diplomats said one of the key issues had been how to address the violence against unarmed civilians as well as attacks on Syrian security forces. The Europeans and the U.S. insisted they should not be equated and that civilians could not be condemned for defending themselves against their attackers.

The statement “condemns widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities.”

It calls on Syrian authorities “to alleviate the humanitarian situation in crisis areas by ceasing the use of force against affected towns, to allow expeditious and unhindered access for international humanitarian agencies and workers, and cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.”

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