posted on FRI 27 JAN 2012 12:32 PM
Council Consultations on Draft Syria Resolution

This afternoon (27 January) Council members are meeting in informal consultations to discuss Syria. Morocco is likely to introduce a draft resolution calling for an end to the violence in Syria and supporting the Arab League’s Action Plan of 2 November 2011 and its decision of 22 January. The draft resolution is expected to be co-sponsored by at least seven Council members and a number of key Arab states.

It seems that the Arab League’s 22 January decision on more specific steps towards political transition and its request for Council support of its plan of action encouraged the UK to produce an alternative to the Russian draft resolution which had been circulated in mid-December. (The Russian approach appears to have stalled with Council members having never received a revised draft from Moscow following expert level negotiations in December and mid-January.)

Since the Arab League meeting last weekend, it appears that the P3 have held meetings with several Arab countries and a number of elected members to discuss the new draft resolution and a strategy for introducing the text to wider Council membership. Arab support is seen as crucial in getting a unanimous Council position on the Syria crisis.

The key point in the draft resolution is the Council’s support for the political transition process as defined by the Arab League. Apparently the Arab countries insisted that the Council draft not deviate from the Arab League’s 22 January decision. It seems that the language in an earlier draft on the issue of political transition raised objections from the Arab countries. The Arab League scenario of giving the vice-president the lead during the political transition process could give rise to the interpretation that Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad should step down. However, the Arab countries felt strongly that this should not be seen as calling for a transfer of power.

Although it appears that the 26 January version of the draft resolution reflects the concerns raised by Arab countries, it is still uncertain how Russia will react as it may interpret this as the first step towards regime change. China, India, Pakistan and South Africa are cautious on this issue as well. It seems that they are less comfortable with the idea of transfer of power than in the Yemen case where it was, at least in principle, agreed by the opposition and the regime. In the case of Syria, Assad has not agreed to the Arab League’s plan and refuses to step down , while accepting the continuation of the Arab League Observer Mission for a further month.

A possibly divisive issue, the threat of future measures in “consultation with the League of Arab States”, has been evoked if Syria does not comply with the resolution within 15 days. It is unclear if consulting with the Arab League will satisfy members who have opposed the threat of sanctions in the past. It may also prove difficult to come to a consensus on language related to use of force. It seems some members may wish to have more explicit language ruling out the use of force.

Syria Meetings Next Week

On Tuesday afternoon, 31 January, the Council will be briefed by the Secretary-General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi and the Prime Minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani. ( Al-Thani is the head of the Arab League ministerial committee on Syria.) The Syrian ambassador is also expected to speak in open chamber. This will be followed by informal consultations. It appears that some members would also like to have the head of the Arab League Observer Mission, Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabie, participate but others are less keen and at press time it seemed unlikely he would be invited to participate in the meeting on Tuesday.

Another development related to Syria that might take place towards the end of next week is a meeting between the UN, EU, Arab League and OIC. It is likely that the regional cooperation mechanism called for by the Secretary-General may be discussed during this meeting.