Syria accuses Europeans of diplomatic war

AP News
Posted: Nov 21, 2011 7:53 PM
Syria accuses Europeans of diplomatic war

Syria's U.N. ambassador accused European powers on Monday of declaring political and diplomatic war against his country by sponsoring a U.N. resolution that would condemn Syria's human rights violations.

Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said Britain, France and Germany are "suffering from Syria-phobia."

He spoke at a meeting of the General Assembly's human rights committee after Germany's U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig introduced the nonbinding resolution. It is expected to be adopted when the committee, which includes all 193 U.N. member states, votes Tuesday afternoon.

Wittig said 60 countries are co-sponsoring the resolution including Syria's fellow Arab nations Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco and Bahrain, and neighbor Turkey, which has been outspoken in its criticism of President Bashar Assad's eight-month crackdown on civilians.

Wittig told the committee the international community must respond to the "terrible atrocities" in Syria, where the U.N. estimates that 3,500 have been killed, and "the current grave and systematic violations of human rights."

The European sponsors decided to press for the resolution after the 22-member Arab League decided last week to suspend Damascus over the crackdown and threatened economic sanctions if the regime continued to violate an Arab-brokered peace plan. It went ahead with the suspension after rejecting Syrian amendments to its plan to send monitors to the country.

Ja'afari said the resolution was introduced "in the context of declaring a political and media and diplomatic war on my country."

Assad's regime blames the country's unrest on armed gangs carrying out a foreign agenda that seeks to destabilize Syria. The uprising has been largely peaceful, but has grown increasingly militarized with army defectors fighting back and some protesters taking up arms.

The draft resolution calls on Syrian authorities to implement the Arab initiative, agreed to earlier this month, "without further delay." It calls for the withdrawal of government tanks from the streets, the release of political prisoners, a halt to attacks on civilians and allowing observers in.

It "strongly condemns the continued grave a systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing and persecution of protesters and human rights defenders..."

The draft calls on Syrian authorities "to immediately put an end to all human rights violations" and protect the population.

Wittig urged U.N. members to support "the strong and remarkable stance" taken by the Arab League, especially its efforts to end the violence.

Germany, Britain and France turned to the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes, after Russia and China vetoed a Security Council resolution they sponsored last month that threatened sanctions if Syria didn't immediately halt its crackdown.

It would have been the first legally binding resolution adopted by the council since Assad's military began using tanks and soldiers against protesters in mid-March.

Wittig has said a General Assembly human rights resolution "is no substitute for council action." Diplomats say that with the deteriorating situation in Syria, there may be another attempt to win approval for a council resolution.