By Edith M. Lederer and Peter James Spielmann /AP
UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council sent a strong and united message to the Syrian government and opposition on Wednesday to immediately implement proposals by international envoy Kofi Annan to end the yearlong bloodshed.
A nonbinding statement approved by the 15 council members and read at a formal meeting spells out Annan’s proposals, which include a cease-fire first by the Syrian government, a daily two-hour halt to fighting to evacuate the injured and provide humanitarian aid, and inclusive political talks “to address the legitimate concerns of the Syrian people.”
In a bid to win support from Russia and China, which have twice vetoed European and US-backed resolutions condemning President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on protesters, France watered down the statement to eliminate possible consideration of “further measures,” which could include sanctions or military action.
Instead, the presidential statement now asks Annan to update the council regularly on the progress of his mission and says that “in the light of these reports, the Security Council will consider further steps as appropriate.”
The governments of the 15 council nations had been given until 9 am (1300 GMT) Wednesday to raise any objections to the text of the statement. No country did so.
“We hope that this will change the dynamic on the ground,” said Germany’s UN Ambassador Peter Wittig. “Given the track record of the Security Council, with the double vetoes, this is a good sign.”
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 does not. But unlike resolutions, neither statement is legally binding.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that the Syria crisis is the most pressing issue facing the world. The UN estimates more than 8,000 people have been killed.
“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 in the Indonesian city of Bogor, his first stop on an Asian tour.
On Tuesday, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow is ready to support a UN resolution endorsing Annan’s plan for settling the Syrian crisis. But Lavrov warned that a resolution shouldn’t turn into an ultimatum to the Syrian government.
Russia and China called the earlier resolutions unbalanced and said they demanded an end only to government attacks, not ones by the opposition. Moscow also argued that the resolutions promoted regime change in Syria and feared outside intervention to support the rebels, as happened in Libya.