What's In Blue

Posted Thu 4 Oct 2012

Syria Press Statement Negotiations Continue

Council members began considering a draft press statement yesterday (3 October) in response to mortar fire the same day from Syria hitting the Turkish border town of Akçakale, killing five women and children and reportedly seriously injuring others. Turkish artillery retaliated by firing on targets in Syria shortly after, and the shelling continued on Thursday, with several Syrian soldiers reportedly killed overnight.

Turkey also followed up by meeting with the President of the Council and transmitting a letter to the President. The letter described the events as an “act of aggression by Syria against Turkey” constituting a “flagrant violation of international law as well as a breach of international peace and security” (S/2012/735) and asked the Council to take the necessary action to “put an end to such aggression”.

Azerbaijan first circulated a draft text for the press statement—on behalf of Turkey—on Wednesday evening. The original draft was placed under silence procedure until 8.00 pm on 3 October. It seems that Russia requested an extension of the silence procedure until 10.00 am today, and circulated a revised draft of the press statement shortly before that deadline. At press time, negotiations were continuing on the text and it seemed that members would meet again at the PR-level this afternoon. (Separately, Russia has also circulated a draft press statement on yesterday’s attacks in Aleppo, which is under silence until 5.30 pm.)

It seems the Russian revisions presented today eliminated references to violations of international law and to threats to international peace and security. (Such language could potentially warrant heightened Council involvement in the Syrian crisis or might be seen by some members as language which could be invoked to justify further acts of self-defence.) The Russian draft instead apparently urges the Syrian government to investigate the incident, calls for the parties to exercise restraint and avoid military clashes in order to reduce tensions, and to find a way to peacefully resolve the crisis. However, it seems some Council members are still keen to include stronger language against Syria and there are also differences among Council members as to whether both parties, or only Syria, should be called upon to exercise restraint.

In a statement following an emergency meeting of NATO called by Turkey on Wednesday evening, NATO’s North Atlantic Council asserted in a statement that it “continues to stand by Turkey,” and urged Syria to end its violations of international law.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay announced on Thursday that Syria had apologised (apparently via statements made to Russian diplomats to the UN and to the UN/Arab League Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi), saying such an incident would not be repeated. Syria does not seem to have publicly apologised for the incident, although the Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergei Lavrov, has called upon Damascus to do so. Also on Thursday, the Turkish Parliament passed legislation allowing for future cross-border raids against Syria.

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