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Veto of UNSC action defends Syria's sovereignty and integrity, Russia says

Statement in Explanation of Vote by Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, on the Draft Resolution on the Situation in Syria, New York, October 4, 2011:

Madam President,

It is obvious that the outcome of today’s vote is not so much a question of the acceptability of wording as a conflict of political approaches.

The Russian delegation had from the outset made intensive constructive efforts toward working out an effective response of the Security Council to the dramatic events in Syria. The first such reaction was reflected in the consensus statement by the President on August 3. Based on this approach, we worked with Chinese partners to prepare a draft resolution, to which as the situation evolved we made changes addressing the concerns of colleagues on the Council. We thank the partners, primarily the BRICS states, for the support of our text.

It is fundamentally important that at the base of the Russian-Chinese draft lies the logic of respect for the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and noninterference, including military, in its affairs, the logic of the unity of the Syrian people, the rejection of confrontation and an invitation to all for an equal and substantive dialogue in order to achieve civil peace and national consensus on ways to reform the socioeconomic and political life of the country.

Today’s rejected draft rests on an entirely different philosophy, the philosophy of confrontation. We can’t agree with its one-sided indictment bias against Damascus. We consider the ultimatum threat of sanctions against the Syrian authorities unacceptable. This approach runs counter to the principle of peaceful settlement of the crisis through a Syrian national dialogue. Our wording proposals on the inadmissibility of external military intervention are not taken into account. And that, in view of the well-known events in North Africa, cannot but make us wary. Equally alarming is the weak wording on the opposition, the absence of the call proposed by us on it to disassociate itself from extremists. Against the background of statements by some Western politicians about President Bashar al-Assad’s loss of legitimacy, this approach could provoke a full-scale conflict in Syria and as a consequence, destabilize the whole region. Syria’s collapse as a result of civil war would have a very destructive effect on the situation in the entire Middle East.

The situation in Syria cannot be considered in the Security Council in isolation from the Libyan experience. The international community is wary of the statements being heard that the implementation of the Security Council resolutions in Libya as interpreted by NATO is a model for its future actions to exercise the “responsibility to protect.” It’s not hard to imagine that tomorrow “united defenders” may begin to apply this “exemplary model” in Syria as well.

It must be perfectly clear to all those present that the Russian position on the conflict in Libya is not in any way determined by something like our special ties with the regime of Muammar Gaddafi (especially since a number of countries represented around this table had a much warmer relationship with the leader of the Jamahiriya). The people of Libya have had their say in respect of Gaddafi and predetermined his fate.

For us, UN members, including in terms of precedent, it is exceptionally important how the provisions of the Security Council resolutions were being carried out – or rather, turned into their opposite.

The demand for an immediate cessation of fire turned into a large-scale civil war, the humanitarian, social, economic and military consequences of which have spilled over far beyond Libya.

The no-fly zone provision turned into bombing of oil facilities, a TV station and other civilian targets.

The arms supply embargo resulted in a naval blockade of the western coast of Libya, including for humanitarian goods.

As a result, the “drama of Benghazi” has today turned into the drama of western Libyan cities: Sirte, Bani Walid, and Sabha. Such “exemplary models” should be excluded from world practice once and for all.

As for Syria, we are not advocates for the Assad regime.

We consider the continuing violence unequivocally unacceptable. We condemn the crackdown on peaceful demonstrators. However, the reason for the continued power drama lies not only in harsh actions of the authorities. Recent developments are particularly compelling evidence that the radical opposition no longer hides its extremist mood and moves to outright terror tactics, relying on foreign sponsors who have outlawed the government. Armed gangs, supplied with smuggled weapons and other sabotage equipment, are seizing towns, killing and committing atrocities against law enforcement officers and civilians, raiding and burning government offices. In recent days, scientists, university and school teachers, intellectuals and civil servants are increasingly becoming the victims of terrorists.

We offer our condolences to the Grand Mufti of Syria Ahmed Hassoun, well-known in the East for his vigorous role in perpetuating the foundations of tolerance and intercultural dialogue, in connection with the death of his 22-year-old son at the hands of terrorists this past Sunday.

One cannot ignore that a large proportion of the Syrian population does not share the demand for an immediate change of government and is disposed towards gradual changes, which they believe should be carried out while preserving civil peace and harmony in the country. And such transformations, albeit belatedly, did begin to be realized. You cannot turn a blind eye to it.

The optimal way out of the crisis is to renounce provoking confrontation; unite all responsible members of the international community to encourage the parties to forge an inclusive intra-Syrian political process. By the way, this is the path chosen for the crisis in Yemen, where intensive mediation efforts are being made in order to reconcile the warring parties.

Russia continues its exacting work with Damascus. We call on the Syrian leadership to implement the announced reforms faster. It is necessary to release the persons who have been detained in the riots and have not committed any criminal offenses; to more actively engage in substantive dialogue with the opposition; to provide wide access to the country for the international media and to increase interaction with the LAS. Judging by the study of the LAS initiative that has begun and the broadcasting from Syria of a number of foreign TV channels, our efforts are beginning to bear results.

We will also continue to work persistently with all groups of the constructive, patriotic minded Syrian opposition, not indifferent to the fate of its country and rejecting outside interference in Syria’s internal affairs. We hope that today’s signal will be adequately perceived by opposition forces. There is no alternative to dialogue, nor can there be. If the opposition believes that the laws recently adopted by al-Assad are imperfect, they ought to respond to the authorities’ invitation for their discussion in order to promote their own ideas. We will bring home our considerations directly to the members of the Syrian opposition, when they again visit Moscow in the near future.

The Syrians do have a chance for a peaceful exit from the current crisis, and that prospect, we will support, acting in coordination with all the constructive-minded partners.

If my colleagues on the Security Council accept our logic, oriented toward dialogue and national reconciliation in Syria, we suggest continuing the work on the draft prepared by Russia and China of a balanced resolution that contains a viable concept of settlement. Our draft is still “on the table.” On this basis, we are ready to develop a truly collective constructive stance of the international community, rather than engage in the legitimization of the already adopted unilateral sanctions and attempts at forcing regime change.

The people of Syria deserve transformations in conditions of peace and with the support of the international community.

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