Syria crisis: West backs down on demand for threat of war in UN resolution

The move means intervention in the conflict is unlikely in the near future

the United Nations

Britain, France and the United States are ready to back down from a demand that a Security Council resolution on removing chemical weapons from Syria include the threat of military force if the Syrian government does not comply, senior sources have indicated.

The decision could smooth the path to the adoption of the resolution possibly as early as this weekend, and may remove the threat of Western intervention in the civil war there in the immediate future.

Russia, which has veto power, has remained staunchly opposed to any suggestion that it might authorise the potential use of force under Chapter 7 of the UN charter in the event of non-compliance by the regime.

A top diplomat at the UN said he was “optimistic” that Russia, with China following behind, would thus be bought on board for the resolution just in time for the start next week of the UN’s annual General Assembly attended by leaders of most of the world’s nations. It does not mean, however, that authorisation for the use of force might not be sought in a subsequent resolution. Nor would it bar the US from launching its own unilateral strikes without UN authorisation if it chose to.

Discussions are also under way in New York to enable the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to announce during next week’s sessions a start-date in October for broader political peace talks, dubbed Geneva 2, even though hurdles remain in persuading all parties, including wary opposition groups, to attend.

Hitherto, the signals from Western capitals about what enforcement mechanisms would be in the resolution have been ambiguous. On Tuesday on Capitol Hill, the Secretary of State John Kerry said the Geneva pact “will happen only with the United Nations passing a strong resolution”, adding: “It is important that that threat of force stay on the table in order to guarantee the compliance of the Assad regime.”

But the diplomat, who is intimately familiar with the Security Council machinations on the issue, was clear. “We are not asking for a resolution that includes military force,” he said, insisting that the Russians had no grounds, therefore, for their continuing public hand-wringing about what the UN resolution might say about the punishment of Syria should it fail to comply.

“The idea that we are on an escalator that leads to military force, or even sanctions, is completely false,” he emphasised. And making what seemed like an obvious reference to the harsh rhetoric emanating today from Moscow, he said: “We all need to try to calm down.”

Yet the passing of the resolution – without which the Geneva framework agreement would have no standing in law – is still not guaranteed. The atmosphere in New York has been soured not just by Russian resistance to any language on military force but more importantly by the presentation on Monday of the UN inspectors’ report on the 21 August chemical weapons attacks.

While Western capitals have said the report leaves no doubt that the regime was responsible for the attacks, Russia has continued to insist it contains no such evidence and that the munitions containing sarin gas were probably fired instead by rebels to draw the US into the war.

“Without receiving a full picture of what is happening here, it is impossible to call the nature of the conclusions reached by the UN experts  anything but politicised, preconceived and one-sided,” the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in Moscow tonight.

The Russian position has left many exasperated. Drawn up by the lead inspector Ake Sellstrom of Sweden, the report “made it abundantly clear that it was the regime that did this and to suggest otherwise is completely fanciful and shows a wilful blindness to all the evidence,” one senior UN diplomat said here. “It shows the desperation of Syria and indeed the Russians.”

It is possible that the Russians will attempt to block a resolution that has any reference to Chapter 7. But the three Western permanent members of the Council will make it clear that use of Chapter 7 does not itself imply authorising force. Rather, the text is likely only to make reference to article 41 of Chapter 7 that rules it out. It states that “the Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the members of the United Nations to apply such measures”.

A subsequent article that would authorise force would be excluded and not cited in the text precisely to allay Russian fears. Indeed, one source said tonight that, should Russia want to go further and demand the insertion of language explicitly excluding the use of force in the resolution, “we would consider that”.

While final obstacles to adopting the resolution were being tackled in closed-door talks between the permanent five members of the Security Council, the timetable to final adoption by all 15 members was being held up by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, in The Hague, which first must agree the terms of the US-Russia framework agreement reached in Geneva.

Next steps: Testing the pledge

* The 41-member Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, is set to agree a text on Friday formalising the pact reached by John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov in Geneva with fine print on implementation, including schedules for inspectors and deadlines.

* Syria has until Saturday to submit a full declaration of its chemical arsenal to the OPCW, which is the overseer of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

* The UN Security Council will try to adopt a resolution that gives legal force to the obligations on Syria as early as this weekend.

* The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, may announce a date next week for the start in October of Syrian peace talks.

* Ake Sellstrom, the chief UN inspector, will return to Syria to continue investigating chemical weapons violations.

France and Russia among countries not giving 'fair share' to Syria crisis appeals - but UK does its bit

Oxfam research reveals that many donor countries are failing to provide their share of the urgently needed funding for the humanitarian response to the Syria crisis.

While the need for a political solution to the crisis is as urgent as ever, Oxfam says donors must also prioritise funding the UN's £3bn ($5bn) appeals. Qatar and Russia have both committed just 3 per cent of their 'fair share' for the humanitarian effort, while France is struggling to reach half of its fair share (47 per cent).

In contrast, the UK has given 154 per cent of its fair share and Kuwait tops the league table with 461 per cent.

The research, released in advance of next Wednesday's high-level donor meeting in New York calculates the amount of aid that should be given according to a country's Gross National Income and its overall wealth.

The US is currently the largest donor to the UN appeals, giving 63 per cent of its fair share, but 'must do more' to help those affected by the Syrian conflict, the study adds.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning:The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Latest stories from 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

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam