United Nations: Bitter wrangling between the
US and Russia dominated a high-level meeting of the UN Security Council on Syria as the two sides differed sharply over who is
to blame for the violence in that country, and what should be
the international community`s approach in dealing with Bashar
Al Assad`s regime.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the powerful
15-nation Council that while America believes firmly in the
sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, "we do not
believe that sovereignty demands that this council stand
silent when governments massacre their own people, threatening
regional peace and security in the process".
Clinton said it is critical that the Assad government end
the violence against its own people, adding that it is not
right to expect that the "defenceless citizens" of Syria
should not defend themselves in the face of artillery assaults
unless there is a commitment by the Assad regime to stop the
"There must be a cessation of violence by the Syrian
regime first and foremost. Then we can move toward asking
others, who will no longer need to defend themselves because
we will be in a political process, to end their own
"And we reject any equivalence between premeditated
murders by a government`s military machine and the actions of
civilians under siege driven to self-defence," Clinton said at
a UNSC meeting yesterday on the situation in the Middle East.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov however said while
Russia agrees that Syrian authorities "bear a huge share of
responsibility", opposition fighters and extremists including
al-Qaeda are also responsible for the violence in Syria.
The chief US diplomat, who held bilateral talks with
Lavrov on the sidelines of the UNSC meeting, said it was
"cynical" that even as Assad was receiving former Secretary
General Kofi Annan, the Syrian army was conducting a fresh
assault on Idlib and continuing its aggression in Hama, Homs,
Clinton said she had a "constructive conversation"
privately with Lavrov.
"We discussed his meetings this past weekend with the Arab
League in Cairo, where he agreed on the necessity of an end to
violence; full, unimpeded humanitarian access; and a political
process led by" Annan, she said.
He said if the priority is to immediately put an end to
all violence and provide humanitarian aid to the Syrian
people, "then at this stage we should not talk about who was
the first to start, but rather discuss realistic and feasible
approaches which would allow (us) to achieve the cease-fire as
The Security Council should press for an "immediate end of
violence" by all sides, he added.
Lavrov said "there is a growing understanding of the need
not to talk to each other on the basis of take-it-or-leave-it,
but bring the positions together and be guided not by the
desire of revenge, of punishment, who is to blame and so on
and so forth, but by the basic interests of the Syrian people.
"And this requires an immediate end of violence as the
number one priority".
He said Syrian authorities "for a long time now have not
been fighting unarmed men but combat units," which he said
included al Qaeda.
"Making hasty demands for regime change, imposing
unilateral sanctions designed to trigger economic difficulties
and social tensions, inducing the opposition to continue its
confrontation with the authorities instead of promoting
dialogue, making calls in support of armed confrontation and
even for foreign military intervention all of the above are
risky recipes of geopolitical engineering that clearly result
in the spread of conflict," he said.
Russia and China have previously vetoed two UNSC
resolutions, which were backed by the US and EU, and which
would have condemned Assad`s bloody crackdown.
Moscow and Beijing argued that the resolutions were
unbalanced as they put the blame for the violence on the
Syrian government and not on the opposition forces, which too
have acted violently.
Referring to Russia and China, Clinton said "now is the
time for all nations, even those who have previously blocked
our efforts, to stand behind the humanitarian and political
approach spelled out by the Arab League.
The international community should say with one voice?
without hesitation or caveat ? that the killings of innocent
Syrians must stop and a political transition must begin".