Stalemate at UN on resolution urging Assad to go

 

Washington

A defiant Russia resisted intense pressure from the West and several Arab countries yesterday for a strong United Nations resolution demanding President Bashar al-Assad steps aside to end the political violence in Syria and speed a transition to democracy.

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Alain Juppé, the French Foreign Minister and several Arab ministers were in New York for a Security Council meeting as fighting between government troops and regime opponents worsened.

However, as negotiations on the final text continued, there was no sign that Moscow, Syria's most important ally, would consent to any wording that called on Mr Assad to go or that authorised military action.

The draft resolution, which stipulates the Council discusses "further measures" if the Syrian leader does not comply within 15 days, was "a path to civil war", Gennady Gatilov, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, said.

At least 10 of the 15 Security Council members were supportive of demanding President Assad's departure, with China, India, Pakistan and South Africa broadly opposed. But, diplomats said, the critical country was Russia, which has made clear it would veto any resolution it believed went too far.

Moscow's stubbornness reflects the determination of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to reassert Russia's role on the global stage, after it allowed last March's UN resolution authorising the US and its allies to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, ultimately enabling the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Some countries were "obsessed" by regime change in the Middle East, Sergei Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister, said. He warned that "we are going to witness a very bad situation, much, much broader than just Syria, Libya or Egypt or any other single country" if that persisted.

The best hopes of a Security Council deal that would avoid a Russian veto lie with the plan drawn up by the Arab League, which froze its monitoring mission in Syria at the weekend because of the continuing violence.

Yesterday, Nabil al-Arab, the Arab League's chief, and Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, the Prime Minister of Qatar, briefed the Council on the proposals, which call for President Assad to hand power to his vice-president, and the formation of a national unity government to prepare democratic elections. "This is not the West telling Syria what to do," Mr Hague said. "This is the Arab world calling on the UN Security Council to help address the crisis in Syria."

As diplomats wrangled in New York, President Assad's forces seemed to be making some progress on the ground, regaining control of some Damascus suburbs after three days of fighting. But fierce clashes continued in other Syrian cities. More than 100 people, including 40 civilians, were killed on Monday, and at least 20 more yesterday, Syrian activists claimed. According to the UN, more than 5,000 people have died in 10 months of unrest.

Russian ally: Why Moscow cares

Military ties: The Syrian port of Tartus is home to Russia's only military base outside the former USSR, servicing navy ships. Russia's arms contracts with Syria total $4bn, including a $550m deal to sell fighter jets signed last month.

Energy: The Russian engineering company Stroytransgaz is constructing a natural gas processing plant about 125 miles east of Homs. Russian investments in Syria encompassing infrastructure, energy and tourism total $20bn.

Historic relationship: The friendship is deep-seated. It was Soviet assistance that helped build the strength of the ruling Baath party, with which it shared some socialist ideologies. Bashar's father, Hafez, trained as an air force pilot in the Soviet Union.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Sport
Two christmas trees ,Moonbeam (2L), Moonchester (2R) and Santa Claus outside the Etihad Stadium
footballAll the action from today's games
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas