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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness