Russia, Syria slam Turkish-backed rights resolution on Syria

30 May 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN WITH REUTERS, İSTANBUL – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denounced on Wednesday a draft resolution co-sponsored by Turkey, Qatar and the United States at the United Nations’ top human rights body, saying it would undermine efforts to end the Syrian conflict.

Lavrov said the draft was “unilateral and odious” and likened it to a UN General Assembly resolution adopted earlier this month that he said was aimed at creating obstacles to US-Russian efforts to foster a peaceful solution.

The US and Russia back an international conference planned for next month to discuss a transitional government for Syria. Lavrov pointed his criticism particularly at the US, saying it was unacceptable to support the conference, which he and US Secretary of State John Kerry are trying to organize, while at the same time “taking steps that are in essence aimed at undermining this proposal.”

The draft resolution, debated at the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday, condemns “widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights” by Syrian authorities and affiliated militias.  “The US delegation (at the council in Geneva) is very actively promoting this extremely unwholesome initiative,” Lavrov told a news conference after talks with Latin American counterparts in Moscow. Addressing the UN Human Rights Council debate, Syrian Ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui condemned Qatar and Turkey, accusing them of being “major parties in the bloodshed in Syria” by helping to “recruit jihadist extremists” from more than 40 countries. The draft resolution is “biased and politically motivated” he said, adding, ” It is far from the truth.”

The draft resolution focused on intensified fighting, especially in the opposition-held town of Qusair. “The assault on Qusair is the latest in the regime’s attempts to use sectarian-driven war to divide the Syrian people,” US Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe told the UN rights council session. “There is no room for [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad or members of his government who have committed atrocities.”

UN official calls on major powers not send arms to Syria

Addressing the session, the top UN human rights official urged global powers not to supply Syria with weapons and to press both sides in the civil war to find a political solution to prevent more massacres and threats to regional stability.”If the current situation persists or deteriorates further, increased inter-communal massacres are a certainty, rather than a risk,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. “The message from all of us should be the same: We will not support this conflict with arms, ammunition, politics or religion,” she told the 47-member Geneva forum.

The debate at the UN council came after the European Union decided to let an EU arms embargo on Syria expire, and Russia said it would deliver an advanced S-300 air defense system to the Damascus government despite US, French and Israeli objections.

France and Britain, the EU’s strongest military powers and most ardent advocates of scrapping the embargo, said they had not yet decided to arm the Syrian opposition, but wanted to put Assad — who enjoys Russian support — under pressure to negotiate.

Iranian participation in peace talks

Speaking in Moscow, Lavrov also reiterated Russian insistence that Iran be invited to the conference, an idea opposed by France and said opponents of President Assad should be persuaded to enter negotiations “without preconditions” such as his exit.

Russia has been Assad’s most powerful protector during the conflict that has killed more than 80,000 people, opposing UN sanctions and, along with China, blocking three Western-backed UN Security Council resolutions it said were one-sided. Speaking in Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, however, that any decision to include Iran in the Geneva talks would be “extremely dangerous,” as it would harm prospects of reaching a deal with Tehran on its disputed nuclear program. “We fear that if they are part of the Syrian conference they will try to drag things on to such an extent that they will blackmail us, saying that the Syrian crisis can only be resolved on condition that they have the nuclear bomb,” Fabius told France Inter radio. Iran denies seeking nuclear bomb capability. Fabius said that with Iran having sent instructors and officers to Syria and encouraged Hezbollah to fight anti-Assad rebels, it would be a mistake to “ask people to attend a conference whose objective is to prevent a positive solution.”