This statement was issued as a means of support for Kofi Annan, the UN/Arab League joint special envoy. The statement puts an end to the doubts regarding the necessity of international and regional support for Annan. However, Turkey and some Arab countries are still taking a different course by sending weaponry into Syria and aiding the armed opposition in a bid to force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad into retreat under military pressure.
The UN statement is not binding and Syria will not be held to account for refusing to observe it. Russia approved of the statement on the condition that it does not contain any specific deadlines.
In the draft text of the statement, Syria had been threatened that if it did not commit to and implement the statement’s ingredients in seven days, the United Nations would undertake “new measures.” Russia’s opposition to this deadline eliminated it from the text of the statement. The phrase was replaced by “other measures,” which is vague and expands the range for potential future maneuverings.
There is no mention of the Arab League plan, which called for Assad’s resignation and handing over of power to his deputy, in this statement. There is no ultimatum in it either, and from this perspective, it is a balanced statement which has satisfied both Russia and China.
In the statement, the Security Council calls on the Syrian government and the armed opposition to immediately establish a ceasefire, engage in national political dialogue, open the roads for the provision of relief aid to people in crisis-stricken regions. It also calls on Damascus to open the country’s doors for foreign reporters and recognize the people’s right for peaceful demonstrations.
The Security Council statement obliges both the government and the opposition to realize that disregarding it might, this time, lead to a resolution issued by the UN Security Council, which will mark the onset of unified pressure by the permanent members of this council. Russia has recently stepped up its criticism of Assad and his regime, accusing him of committing mistakes ever since the crisis started.
UK’s representative in the Security Council, whose country presides over the council this month, says the Security Council statement is a firm message to the government and all those involved in the Syrian crisis should immediately embrace Annan’s statements.
The Syrian government has apparently agreed to these proposals, but the opposition, especially the Syrian National Council, has opposed them from the outset because they believe that Assad should first step down to pave the way for a political solution.
Neither the Syrian government, nor the opposition has been able to end this deadlock in their own favor during the past year. Prolongation of the crisis combined with Syria’s special situation in the region has prompted other regional and international players to enter the game and this has heightened the conflict of interests among those players.
The Arab League will soon meet in Baghdad and the Iraqi government will take over the rotational chair of the League from Qatar. Iraq’s positions on Syria are not as hostile as those of Qatar. The Iraqi officials have announced that they will neither invite Assad to take part in the meeting, nor bring up the issue of Syria during the meeting.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey do not favor this situation. Ankara is trying to take the initiative before the Arab League meeting convenes in Baghdad. Ankara has officially requested that the second meeting of “Friends of Syria” in Istanbul be held earlier than the previously scheduled. Turkey is doing its best to prevent a repetition of the failure of the first meeting in Tunisia, thus, shifting the diplomatic center of gravity from the Arab League to Ankara.
Turkey is also trying to convince the Syrian opposition groups to stop their differences and also convince Jordan to serve as an alternative route for sending weapons to the opposition. Unconfirmed reports have it that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is no more willing to be part of the special Arab committee and may be replaced by Libya.
The UAE government’s decision to expel Syrian nationals, who had demonstrated against Assad, proves the inability of the National Council in protecting its supporters. Differences between the UAE and the Syrian opposition have soared so high that the influential Emirati police chief recently warned about the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power in Syria.
Some Syrian opposition sources say they are under such tremendous pressures from Turkey that some opposition groups may distance from the National Council, go to Cairo, and openly seek the support of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
Emergence of al-Qaeda in the Syrian crisis and the recent bomb attack in the capital Damascus and in Homs, which were vehemently condemned by the UN Security Council’s statement, have caused great concerns among the Western states. Perhaps, what recently happened in the city of Toulouse in France, when a member of al-Qaeda attacked Muslims and Jews alike, depicts the future picture of a Salafi rule in Syria. Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi had issued warnings about this situation in his visit to Paris last year, but his remarks fell on deaf ears.