Russia has circulated a draft of the United Nations Security Council’s resolution on Syria, its third since December, but Western diplomats remained unimpressed, dismissing it as “small tweaks” and “playing for time.”
The revised draft incorporated some proposals proposed by Western countries but still avoids promoting any direct pressure on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom the United States and the European Union accuse of waging a bloody war on political dissent.
The draft was not published officially but excerpts from the 10-page document were leaked to several news agencies, including Reuters and Al-Arabiya.
The document includes France’s call to the Syrian government to “cease all violence [and] release all those arrested due to the recent incidents” and also a joint proposal by France and Portugal calling on Syria to let international media and humanitarian organizations into the country.
But it also reiterates “the need to resolve the current crisis in Syria peacefully, ruling out any military intervention from outside,” a point that Russia has long been insisting on.
Representatives of all 15 members of the Security Council are to meet Tuesday to discuss the new draft, reports said.
But the draft may follow Russia’s two previous proposals into bureaucratic limbo, judging by the first unofficial reactions. "I'm not sure any of the amendments are highly significant," an unnamed Western diplomat told Reuters.
“It is a maneuver playing for time,” another Western diplomat said, AFP reported.
The French Foreign Ministry dismissed the Russian draft as “inadequate.” Spokesman Romain Nadal said the document was “very far from responding to the reality of the situation in Syria,” AFP said.
Russia, a longtime ally of Syria, has been vehemently opposing any kind of a crackdown on Assad’s regime, which has been struggling since last March to quell the wave of political protests that engulfed the country.
At least 5,000 have been killed in clashes between the government and the protesters, according to UN estimates. Assad’s government is insisting that its opponents are terrorists supported by unidentified outside forces.
The Arab League, a group of 22 countries, has suspended Syria’s membership in November and negotiated dispatching an observer mission to the country. The 50-strong mission, which arrived in late December, has so far failed to stop or at least decrease the bloodshed.
Speaing to CBS channel last week, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, called for deployment of Arab League troops in Syria, but the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that it opposes any outside military intervention, including Arab forces.
Russia has repeatedly insisted that the Western drive for a stronger crackdown on Syria is preparation for a “Libyan scenario.” Rebels ousted and killed long-standing Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in October after a military standoff lasting many months in which they received help from NATO forces.
“Unfortunately, the Western approach radically differs from ours and judging from the content of the amendments that have been submitted, they are obviously aimed at toppling the regime in Damascus," Russian Foreign Minister Gennady Gattilov said last Friday, Interfax reported.
In what observers saw as an implicit sign of Russian support for Syria, several Russian warships called at the country’s port of Tartus earlier this month. Another vessel that Cypriot media reported carried tons of ammunition made its way last week to Tartus from St. Petersburg.