Assad Cousin to New York Times: No Stability in Israel if There's No Stability in Syria

Rami Makhlouf, a member of Syria's political elite, warns 'nobody can guarantee what will happen' if the Syrian regime falls; UN diplomats say Syria has dropped plans to run for seat on UN Human Rights Council.

A cousin and adviser of Syrian President Bashar Assad warned that unless there was stability in Syria, "there's no way there will be stability in Israel," the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

Rami Makhlouf, one of the political elite in Syria, gave a three-hour interview to the New York Times, but did not elaborate on the comment about Israel's stability, saying only "no way, and nobody can guarantee what will happen after, God forbid, anything happens to this regime."

Anti-Assad protest - Reuters - May 6, 2011

There were recent rumors that Syria, one of Israel's neighbors in the north, would create a provocation along the border to divert attention from the growing protests against Syrian President Assad's regime.

Human rights groups say that more than 600 people have been killed and 8,000 jailed or gone missing in Syria as part of a massive government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters since March. Opposition groups put the death toll at over 700.

The crackdown has led to sanctions on Syrian leaders, including from the European Union, who also placed an arms embargo against the regime.

In addition, under pressure from fellow United Nations member states, Syria dropped plans to run for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council and allowed Kuwait to replace it as a candidate, UN diplomats said on Tuesday.

Several UN diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Kuwait had confirmed to Western officials that it would enter the race for a spot on the 47-nation Human Rights Council in the Asian category.

They said that Syria planned to drop out of the race for four spots available to Asian countries. There was no immediate confirmation from Syrian officials.

The original slate of Syria, India, Indonesia and the Philippines had been endorsed by Asia's UN voting group and the Arab League.

But Syria's violent crackdown against anti-government protesters prompted some Western, Arab and Asian UN member states to suggest that Damascus should not be on the rights body when it was facing accusations of gross violations, Western envoys said.

"It is not really the time for Syria to become a member of the council of human rights," French UN Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters on Monday.