Syria Draft Presidential Statement and Press Statement
It appears that Council members today (19 March) received two documents on Syria. The first was a draft presidential statement circulated by France supporting Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s mediation efforts, and the second was a Russian draft press statement on the terrorist attacks in Damascus on 17 and 19 March and in Aleppo on 18 March. The press statement is under silence procedure until 10 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. Council members are likely to have their first discussion on the presidential statement tomorrow morning at expert level and then at permanent representative level later in the day.
It appears that the P3 began discussing the elements for a presidential statement following Annan’s briefing to Council members last Friday (16 March). It seems that Annan had urged the Council to overcome its deadlock and send a unified message in support of his mediation efforts. As a result, it appears that the P3 have chosen to leave aside the draft resolution (which, together with Morocco, they had been negotiating with Russia and China) to focus on a presidential statement supporting Annan.
Besides expressing the Council’s concern at the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in Syria and expressing its full support for Annan’s efforts, the draft presidential statement apparently conveys the Council’s support for Annan’s six-point plan. It also highlights the main elements of his initial proposals to the Syria government and requests Annan to keep the Council regularly informed on his activities. (The proposals commit the Syrian authorities to: work with the Joint Special Envoy in an inclusive Syrian-led political dialogue; stop the fighting and allow for a UN-supervised cessation of armed violence; ensure humanitarian assistance and the release of arbitrarily detained persons; ensure freedom of movement for journalists; and the right to demonstrate peacefully.) Media reports indicate that a team of experts sent by Annan arrived in Damascus yesterday(18 March) to continue work on the proposals.
A presidential statement requires consensus from all members and it is unclear at this stage how Russia or China may react to the draft text. However, it seems all Council members expressed their support for Annan after his briefing last Friday. Following a meeting between the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the president of ICRC today, Russia said that the Syrian government and armed opposition forces should agree to a daily humanitarian pause.
The Russian draft press statement on the terrorist attacks condemns the attacks and calls for an end to the violence. It also contains the traditional language used by Council members in press statements following such incidents, including reaffirming terrorism as a serious threat to international peace and security, reiterating Council members’ determination to combat all forms of terrorism, and reminding states that measures taken to combat terrorism needed to comply with international law.
In February, Togo had circulated a draft press statement following attacks in Aleppo but at that time some members were reluctant to issue a statement on the bombings until there was agreement on the larger political situation. However, it seems likely that at this point these members may be more inclined to agree to the press statement on the attacks if consensus can be reached on the presidential statement supporting Annan.
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