Draft Press Statements on Syria
Today (12 November) Russia circulated a draft Council press statement condemning an announcement by the Free Syrian Army’s Damascus Military Council. (The announcement seemed to communicate an ultimatum to foreign citizens and diplomats in Syria to evacuate within 72 hours or be considered partners with the current Syrian regime.) The draft press statement was originally put under silence until 4 pm today but has been extended until noon on Tuesday (13 November) at the request of France.
Russia’s draft today follows the circulation of a press statement on Friday (9 November) by the US and others, condemning Syrian incursions into the area of separation in the Golan Heights. That draft failed to reach consensus. (Russia broke silence on Friday afternoon when it asked for language suggesting “grave concern” rather than “condemnation” of the incident. It seems that this was unacceptable to some members and it looks unlikely that the Golan Heights draft press statement will be further negotiated.)
The impasse over these two press statements reflects continuing differences between the P5 over the larger issue of how the Council should respond to the crisis in Syria.
It comes at a time of increasing concern about the spillover of the Syrian crisis into neighbouring states, as well as in the context of the recently concluded meetings in Doha that led to a unified Syrian opposition council – the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces. It is possible the swift embrace of that body by the US, the UK and France, may have partly prompted today’s draft press statement by Russia.
The Council last addressed the Syrian crisis on 6 November, when Council members were briefed in consultations by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman. In the briefing, Feltman addressed the Doha meetings and suggested that a cohesive opposition that included representation from those on the ground in Syria would be highly desirable, but cautioned against equating the formation of a unified opposition with the establishment of a transitional government.
The newly elected leader of the Syrian National Coalition, Mouaz al-Khatib, held preliminary discussions today on possible recognition of this new body with the Arab League, which subsequently recognised the new bloc as “legitimate”. The UK, France and the US have characterised the new opposition council as a credible alternative to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Media reports also indicate that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is poised to recognise this new opposition coalition. It seems Foreign Ministers of the Arab League and EU are also scheduled to meet tomorrow on how they can support the newly formed Syrian National Coalition.
Media reports also indicate that Joint Special Representative, Lakdhar Brahimi, is also expected to address the Arab League today. Brahimi is likely to brief the Council on these developments later this month.
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