The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council should restrict the use of veto powers when it comes to mass atrocities, New Zealand’s foreign minister said as the Syrian crisis enters its 19th month.
“The case for reform of the Security Council has become utterly compelling,” Murray McCully said in a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York on Sept. 29. “If 25,000 deaths, countless thousands injured and many more thousands displaced and homeless is not enough to get the Security Council to act, then what does it take?”
Russia, whose ties with Syria date to Soviet times, has used its veto to shield the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. China has also joined Russia in vetoing resolutions brought by the U.S. and allies.
International efforts have failed to stop the violence as rebels continue an uprising that began in March 2011 to overthrow Assad. The Security Council is at risk of losing its credibility through its inability to act, McCully said.
Syria is an arms customer and hosts Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union in the port of Tartus. The U.S., France and the U.K. are the other permanent members of the Security Council with veto powers. The conflict has killed 30,000 people, according to estimates by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group.
Fighting in the country’s largest city continued in what insurgents said would be a “decisive battle” to control Aleppo. Syrian government troops killed 104 people on Sept. 29 across the country, including 61 in or around the capital, Damascus, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said.
The permanent Security Council members should “agree to confine their use of the veto to those issues that clearly and directly affect their vital national interests” and not use the power “in situations involving mass atrocities,” McCully said, according to a transcript of his speech.
New Zealand, with a population of 4.4 million, is seeking a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2015 and 2016, according to McCully. The nation is serving as chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, which has 16 members including Australia.
“We all need a Security Council that is more responsive to the needs of the wider membership and more effective at dealing with the significant challenges we all confront today,” McCully said in his speech.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was in New York last week to attend the 193-member General Assembly meeting and canvass support for her country winning election to the Security Council. UN members will this month vote for non-permanent members of the council, which will serve in 2013 and 2014.
Ten non-permanent members are elected for two-year terms and Australia has been on the council four times, the last in 1985-86, according to the UN.
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