Russia, China snub U.N. council talks on Syria: envoys

Date: 6/11/2011

By Louis Charbonneau Louis Charbonneau – Sat Jun 11, 6:25 pm ET

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia and China snubbed U.N. Security Council talks on Saturday convened to discuss a draft resolution that would condemn Syria's bloody crackdown on pro–democracy protesters, U.N. diplomats said.

"Russia and China didn't think it necessary to show up," a council diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "It's a pretty clear message," another diplomat said.

The European drafters of the resolution convened Saturday's talks in the hope they could break their deadlock on a draft resolution that would not impose sanctions on Syria but would condemn it for the crackdown and suggest Syrian security forces might be guilty of crimes against humanity.

Diplomats said the latest meeting produced no changes among the 13 Security Council members that attended. Currently, nine members, including the draft's sponsors, Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, plan to vote for it.

The United States is not sponsoring the resolution but has made clear it supports the text and condemns the violence against the demonstrators. It accused the Syrian government on Saturday of creating a "humanitarian crisis" and called on it to halt its offensive.

Russia and China dislike the idea of any council discussion of Syria and have suggested they might use their veto power to kill the resolution. Lebanon, India, Brazil and South Africa have also said they have problems with the text.

"The Syrians are firing into the crowds and they (Russia and China) don't care," a Western diplomat told Reuters, requesting anonymity.

Diplomats said they were especially concerned about reports that Syrian security forces had been using helicopter gunships and firing live ammunition at demonstrators. U.N. Secretary–General Ban Ki–moon said the use of military force against civilians was unacceptable.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al–Moualem told Ban and the Security Council in a letter obtained by Reuters on Friday that if the council approved the European draft resolution, it would only embolden "extremists and terrorists.

Envoys said the latest draft, submitted to the council on Wednesday by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, could be put to a vote next week.

Western envoys said they were especially frustrated with the positions of Brazil, India and South Africa, which are considering abstaining from the vote.

"We're trying to explain to them that abstaining on this issue means siding with Russia and China –– and Syria," one diplomat said.

The diplomat added that if Brazil, India and South Africa voted for the resolution, the Russians and Chinese might consider abstaining instead of vetoing the resolution.

Given Lebanon's complicated ties to its neighbor Syria, diplomats said they expected it to vote against the draft.

Resolutions need nine votes in favor and no vetoes from the five permanent council members –– Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States –– in order to pass.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)


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