June 8th, 2011
09:57 AM ET

UN Security Council takes up Syria as refugees flee

The U.N. Security Council is planning to tackle the Syrian crisis on Wednesday, an effort to grapple with nearly three months of anti-government demonstrations and a brutal regime crackdown against the protesters.

The 15-member body will be briefed by a U.N. official on the subject and huddle over a new proposed resolution on the situation in the country.

A recent French-British resolution failed to please Russia, one of the permanent members of the council, and some other members. As a result, diplomats have tweaked the resolution language to make the measure palatable to Russia and all members.

It was not clear precisely when a vote on the resolution would happen, though Britain and France have said they would like it to take place by Friday.
A resolution would fail if one of the five permanent members vetoes it.

While vetoes by Russia and China appear possible, council members hope to get as much support possible for a resolution. The idea is to get a lot of support and highlight the opposition of those few countries that vote down the measure.

The permanent members are the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China.

The Security Council has been criticized for failing to act to stem the violence in Syria as it did in Libya. But it wants to avoid pursuing military action as it had in Libya.

The new draft differs from the council's resolution on Libya, which endorsed force by calling for "all necessary measures" to protect civilians under threat of attack by Moammar Gadhafi's government.

"Britain has circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the repression in Syria and calling for the Syrian Government to meet their people's legitimate demands, release all prisoners of conscience, lift restrictions on the media and Internet and co-operate with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights," Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Hague said Britain is "working to persuade other countries that the Security Council has a responsibility to speak out. He said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "is losing legitimacy and should reform or step aside."

U.N. officials have expressed alarm over reports of torture, the use of live ammunition and shelling casualties across the country. Officials lately have focused on reports that children have been killed in the mayhem, which has resulted in more than 1,000 deaths.

Groups such as Amnesty International have urged the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. A group of Syrian and international activists have visited the ICC at The Hague and supplied evidence of what they say are crimes against humanity by government forces.
The discord across the country has spurred the flight of some Syrians away from their towns and to other countries, such as Lebanon and Turkey.
Refugees from the Syrian border town of Jisr Al-Shugur say tens of thousands of residents have fled the town over the last week, after bloody fighting erupted resulting in the deaths of scores of people.
About 100 Syrians clustered near a border fence with Turkey on Wednesday. Hours before, Turkish authorities allowed around 120 Syrian refugees to cross into Turkish territory near the village of Karbeyaz.
In the past, the Turkish government has made a show of evacuating civilian victims of violence in Iraq and Libya.

But Ankara has taken a different approach with dozens of wounded civilians fleeing Syria.

Turkey fears a repeat of the enormous Kurdish refugee exodus from northern Iraq in 1991, and the country has spent the last decade promoting cozy relations and lucrative economic ties with Syria's al-Assad.

Over the last month, the government of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan began calling for reform in Damascus in a bid to curb the escalating violence.

"It is out of question that we close the border at this point. The developments in Syria are saddening. We are watching in worry," Erdogan said on Wednesday, according to the semi-official Anatolian Agency.

"We hope that Syria changes its attitude towards the civilians to a more tolerant one and realize its steps for reform in a more convincing way for the civilians," said Erdogan, who has been campaigning ahead of Sunday's parliamentary elections.

Filed under: Diplomacy • Hot Spot Dispatch • Syria
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