Arab League, Western Powers Say Not Seeking Military Action in Syria

Statements delivered in light of China, Russia opposition in a high profile UN Security Council meeting in New York attended by several government ministers and a high-ranking delegation from the Arab League.

The Arab League and Western powers in the UN Security Council Tuesday repeated over and over their assurances that they were not seeking military action to end the bloodshed in Syria, in an effort to bring Russia and China onboard for a solution.

The statements by the league and Western governments were delivered in a high profile council meeting in New York attended by several government ministers and a high-ranking delegation from the Arab League.

Syria reuters - Reuters - 27.1.2012

Russia and China were strongly opposed to the current draft resolution by the Western powers that would back the Arab League, based on their concerns that the draft could eventually lead to military action in Syria similar to the NATO intervention in Libya.

The two countries have also blocked, using their veto power, previous efforts to pass a resolution condemning the Syrian government's human rights violations. Russia has close military ties to Syria, having just delivered fighter planes worth 564 million dollars to Damascus, and the Russian Navy has a strategic base there.

The council met on a day that another 15 people were killed as Syrian security forces continued operations against rebel forces. A surge in violence which has gripped restive provinces on the outskirts of the capital Damascus continued for the fourth consecutive day, despite claims aired by Syria's state-television that security operations had returned "stability" to the al-Ghotta area.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who indicated that council members would resume negotiating the draft in coming days, urged the council to unite in support of the Arab League's plan of action, which hopefully would end the 11-month-old conflict that has killed more than 5,400 people.

"Some members in the council think the resolution amounts to another Libya, this is a false analogy," Clinton declared.

"Stand with the people of Syria or become complicit with the violence there," Clinton urged.

The meeting culminated months of efforts to bring the Syrian conflict before the council. In addition to Clinton, France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Germany's Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Link attended the meeting.

Clinton and envoys from Britain, France and Portugal repeatedly assured that the draft resolution presented to the council contains no provision for military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashir Assad.

The Arab League's Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi and Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani presented its plan of action to the 15-member council, and briefed the panel on the deteriorating situation in Syria.

Al-Thani described the increasingly desperate situation of the people of Syria, noting how the Syrian government had failed to accept the league's plan of action to end the bloodshed. That refusal resulted in the league's imposition of sanctions against Damascus.

Al-Thani charged that the Syrian "killing machinery has continued unabated."

Syria's UN Ambassador Bashir Jafaari rejected any idea of cooperation with international efforts to quell the violence and blasted the Arab League's presentation to the council.

"Syria would never accept that its sovereignty is violated," the ambassador told the council. "The Syrian people were always able to solve their problems by themselves. It has never needed the intervention from outside."

Jafaari charged "foreign powers" with trying to destablize his country, and blamed the current violence on Britain's occupation in the 20th century.

"Syrians had big hopes for the Security Council and the Arab League - that they would end Israel's occupation of Arabic lands and the Israeli killing of Arabs," he said. ""But some Arab countries appear to be indifferent, they would rather intervene in the internal problems of Syria."

The Arab League's Al-Thani and al-Arabi said the leagues was not seeking a regime change in Damascus, reiterating that Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected and that it is up to the Syrian people themselves to decide on a regime change.

Al-Arabi repeatedly said the Arab League stands against foreign military intervention in Syria and called for a solution that is in "the Arab context and avoids foreign intervention in Syria."

Russia and China called on the council to play a "constructive" role.

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin and his Chinese counterpart, Li Baodong, said they are opposed to punitive measures like military action or sanctions against Damascus. Instead they called for dialogue between Damascus and the opposition to work out a peaceful solution.

"The Security Council can play a constructive role in Syria," Churkin said. "The council should not be guided by the imposition of sanctions and use of a toolbox to end conflicts. The council cannot impose a political solution on Syria."

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