Security Council to Vote on Sanctions on Syria
The United Nations Security Council will vote Wednesday on a Western-backed resolution that threatens Syrian authorities with sanctions if they do not stop using heavy weapons in towns, Reuters reported.
The vote will take place despite a declaration by Russia that it will block the move.
The resolution, proposed by Britain, the United States, France and Germany, would extend a UN observer mission in Syria for 45 days and place international envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.
Chapter 7 allows the 15-member council to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention. U.S. officials have said they are talking about sanctions on Syria, not military intervention.
“Russia and China still expressed objection to Chapter 7, but when challenged they were unable to come up with any convincing reasons why,” Britain's UN Ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, was quoted by Reuters as having told reporters on Monday.
“Obviously, we're happy to have further negotiations. We've scheduled a vote for Wednesday afternoon,” he said.
According to the Western-backed resolution, Syria would face sanctions if it does not stop using heavy weapons and withdraw its troops from towns and cities within 10 days of the adoption of the resolution.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow on Monday that Russia would block the Western-backed resolution because of the threat of sanctions. Russia and China have previously vetoed resolutions designed to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia has also put forward a resolution to extend the UN mission for 90 days, but it does not contain a threat of sanctions.
“If our partners decide to block our resolution no matter what, then the UN mission will not have a mandate and will have to leave Syria. That would be a pity,” said Lavrov.
Earlier on Monday, Russia complained that there are “elements of blackmail” in the West's position on Syria. The Western powers, Moscow said, are attempting to link the extension of the mandate of UN observers in Syria to a green light for using force against Assad's regime.
The Security Council must decide the fate of the UN mission, known as UNSMIS, before its mandate expires on Friday.
If the UN mission in Syria is renewed, Reuters noted, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has recommended shifting the emphasis of the work of UNSMIS from military observers to civilian staff focusing on a political solution and issues including human rights.
UNSMIS suspended most of its monitoring activity on June 16 due to increased risk from rising violence.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting was reported Monday in the heart of Damascus, with the main highway to the south of the country severed.
Some of the worst fighting since the 16-month civil war began in March 2011 was seen about a mile from the airport highway Monday morning. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting was centered in the Damascus districts of Tadamon, Midan and Kfar Souseh.
There have been reports that opposition forces currently control more than 50 percent of the country.