What's In Blue

Posted Thu 19 Jul 2012

Possible Extension of UNSMIS

At press time, it seemed a vote on an extension of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) might be called later today (19 July) following consultations on a new draft text at 2pm. The UNSMIS mandate expires tomorrow (20 July). (In general, a draft resolution is put in blue 24 hours before it is likely to be put to a vote, but in practice the Security Council has often voted before the 24 hours are up, especially in “urgent circumstances”, as provided for in Rule 26 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure. In comments to the press following this morning’s meeting, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin indicated that it would be necessary to seek further instructions on a new draft from Moscow overnight.)

A draft resolution that would authorise this extension was put in blue by the UK following the veto by China and Russia this morning of the draft resolution co-sponsored by France, Germany, Portugal, the US and the UK (S/2012/538) renewing UNSMIS for 45 days and threatening sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Pakistan and South Africa abstained on the vote and, together with China, suggested a technical rollover of the mission.

It seems that the new draft resolution renews the UNSMIS mandate for a “final” period of 30 days. However, it appears to be more than a technical rollover as the draft takes into consideration the Secretary-General’s recommendations to reconfigure the mission and the operational implications of the dangerous security situation in Syria. The draft also conditions any further renewal of UNSMIS to the full implementation of paragraph 2 of resolution 2043, which explicitly calls on Syria to cease the use of heavy weapons and withdraw from population centres as part of its commitment to the six-point plan formulated by UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan. It also apparently asks the Secretary-General to report within 15 days.

This morning’s vote was originally scheduled for yesterday afternoon but was postponed in order to allow more time to try to reach consensus and bridge the divide in the Council over the Chapter VII provisions in the draft resolution. During yesterday’s negotiations amongst the P5, Russia apparently proposed that a Chapter VII resolution would only be appropriate if it applied to both the Syrian government and armed opposition groups. It seems the P3 were open to that proposal. However, in the end there was no agreement on such language.

At this morning’s meeting both the UK draft resolution and the Russian draft resolution (S/2012/547) were formally placed on the agenda. However, the UK draft was voted on first since, under rule 32 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure, “draft resolutions shall have precedence in order of their submission.” Having two draft resolutions formally placed on the same agenda item is a rare procedural move which seems to have allowed Russia to keep its options open. However, during its explanation of vote, Russia said it would not call for a vote on its draft.

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