Russia remained at loggerheads yesterday with the US and Europe ahead of a United Nations Security Council vote tonight on a new Syrian resolution.
Despite last-minute negotiations behind the scenes by council diplomats, there appears to be little hope that the UN’s most powerful body could unite behind a plan to end the 17-month civil war.
The key stumbling block remains the West’s demand for a resolution threatening non-military sanctions tied to Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which could eventually allow for the use of force to end the conflict in Syria.
Russia is adamantly opposed to any mention of sanctions or Chapter 7. After security council consultations late on Tuesday night on a revised draft resolution pushed by Moscow, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Alexander Pankin said those remained “red lines”.
Meanwhile, UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has been in Russia for the last two days for top-level meetings, including talks with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
Annan told reporters in Moscow that he and Putin had focused on “what measures need to be taken to end the violence and the killing and how we move on to the political transition” and he urged the council to try to find language “that will pull everybody together for us to move forward on this critical issue”.
The mandate of the 300-strong UN observer force in Syria expires on Friday and the Security Council must decide by then whether to extend it.
In related news, Foreign Secretary William Hague toured a refugee camp near the Syrian border yesterday, and promised that the international community would respond to the worsening humanitarian situation in the country.
Hague added that the situation there showed the need for world powers to agree upon a response at the UN. “I think as the violence in the south of Syria gets worse, it underlines the needs to act at the United Nations Security Council. We’re negotiating there at the moment for a Chapter Seven resolution, threatening consequences for non-compliance with the Annan plan.”
Over 110,000 Syrians have registered with the UN refugee agency since April, with around 33,000 of those seeking sanctuary in Jordan.