With Russian Support, U.N. Security Council Adopts Watered-Down Statement on Syria

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, meets with Kofi Annan, the United Nations special envoy to Syria, in Damascus, Syria, on Saturday March 10, 2012. The state-run news agency SANA reported that talks between Assad and Annan were "positive" but there were no further details on the meeting. Syrian troops pushed ahead with a new assault on the northern region of Idlib on Saturday, shelling one of the centers of the uprising against President Bashar Assad's rule and sending families fleeing for safety as armed rebels tried to fend off the attack. Thick black smoke billowed into the sky. (AP Photo/SANA)

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, meets with Kofi Annan, the United Nations special envoy to Syria, in Damascus, Syria, on Saturday March 10, 2012. (AP Photo/SANA)

March 21, 2012

After months of diplomatic stalemate resulting from the objections of Russia and China, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a statement on the crisis in Syria today.

The nonbinding statement calls on the Syrian government and the opposition to immediately implement a six-point proposal by Kofi Annan, the recently-appointed U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria.

The proposals in Annan’s plan require the Syrian government to:

  • Work with Annan towards “an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people”;
  • Cease troop movements towards and the use of heavy weapons in population centers, and begin drawing down its military presence in and around those centers;
  • Implement a daily two-hour pause in fighting to ensure timely humanitarian assistance;
  • “Intensify the pace and scale” of releasing those who have been “arbitrarily detained”;
  • Implement a nondiscriminatory visa policy towards journalists and ensure their freedom of movement;
  • Respect “freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully.”

The U.N.’s statement does not call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, and notes that Annan will also seek “similar commitments” from the opposition to stop the fighting.

Russia and China have twice vetoed U.N. resolutions aimed at addressing the crackdown, and the new statement was watered down by France in an effort to win their support.

An earlier draft had included a seven-day timetable to review implementation and consider “further measures” if progress was insufficient — including sanctions or military action — but that threat was dropped, according to the Associated Press.

Instead, the statement requests that Annan “update the Council regularly and in a timely manner on the progress of his mission.” Based on those reports, it will “consider further steps as appropriate.”

Meanwhile, Syrian security forces “relentlessly pounded” the neighborhood of Khaldiya in Homs yesterday and today, killing 25 civilians, according to activists there. The area had become a refuge for those who fled or were displaced from other besieged districts in the city.

The U.N. estimates that more than 8,000 Syrians have been killed since the uprising broke out a year ago.

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