The United Nations Security Council is being asked to condemn the Syrian government’s attacks on protesters against President Bashar al-Assad, Portugal’s ambassador said.
Britain, France, Germany and Portugal today circulated a draft statement that asks for restraint by all parties to the conflict and respect for human rights, and endorses Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for an investigation of the violence. It also notes Assad’s decision last week to lift the 48-year-old emergency law and abolish the Supreme State Security Court.
“The situation in Syria is extremely serious and it requires a very clear condemnation from the international community,” said Portugal’s ambassador to the UN, Jose Moraes Cabral. Noting that Ban and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, have condemned the Syrian government’s actions, Cabral said it was “time the Security Council also said something.”
The first UN Security Council consideration of the situation in Syria follows the reported deaths today of at least 20 people when security forces stormed the city of Daraa in the south and opened fire from tanks and armored vehicles.
Syria has intensified a violent crackdown on protesters in the past week, leaving more than 100 dead. Assad’s decision to end the emergency rule in place for half a century, along with his pledges of future political and economic measures, have failed to halt the spread of demonstrations against his regime echoing those that toppled rulers in Egypt and Tunisia this year.
Bashar Ja’Afari, Syria’s ambassador to the UN, said the move by European Union members of the Security Council would be a “violation of the UN Charter because it would happen without consultations with Syria.” Ja’Afari called the proposed statement an “intervention in the domestic affairs of a sovereign member of the UN.”
The Obama administration is considering its own options, including possible sanctions, to hold Assad accountable for the increasingly violent crackdown against anti-government protesters, an administration official said.
One option under consideration is an executive order by President Barack Obama that would impose sanctions on Syrian officials, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The sanctions would target those officials leading the crackdown and could include freezing their assets and banning business dealings with the U.S., the official said.
Syria is an ally of Iran and a power broker in neighboring Lebanon, where it supports Hezbollah, an armed Shiite Muslim group. Assad and other officials say foreign-backed conspirators are seeking to exploit the expression of legitimate popular demands as a pretext for violence.
The ability of the Security Council to agree on a statement is in doubt following opposition last week to a council position on the violence in Yemen. Statements such as the one being proposed require the unanimous consent of the panel’s 15 member governments.
“Any kind of unilateral move in the Security Council would not be welcome, not only by Syria but by some other members of the council, because it is counter-productive and would lead to a verbal escalation of the situation,” Ja’Afari said. “The UN’s role is to help, not to undermine any chances of a peaceful settlement.”
Ja’Afari said he wouldn’t comment on allegations of violence against protesters.