Competing Draft Statements Illustrate UNSC Division on Syria

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Syria’s UN envoy, Bashar Jaafari, speaks outside the Security Council chamber on Thurs Oct 4. He offered condolences for the shelling inside Turkey but no apology saying the incident is under investigation (photo credit: UN Photo)

Oct 8, 2012 – Illustrative of the Security Council’s division on Syria are the competing draft statements that were circulated last week when the 15-nation body endeavored to speak on Syrian shelling inside Turkey.

Here’s the original Western-backed draft proposed Wednesday (Oct 3) by non-permanent Council member Azerbaijan, on behalf of Turkey:

“The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the shelling by the Syrian armed forces of the Turkish town of Akcakale which resulted in the deaths of five civilians, all of whom were women and children, as well as a number of injuries. The members of the Security Council expressed their sincere condolences to the Government and people of Turkey, and to the families of the victims.

This represents a demonstration of the spilling over of the crisis in Syria into neighboring states to an alarming degree.

Such violations of international law constitute a serious threat to international peace and security. The members of the Council demanded that such violations stop immediately.

The members of the Security Council call on the Syria Government to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours.”

Here’s the draft as amended by Russia:

“The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the shelling from the Syrian territory of the Turkish town of Akcakale which resulted in the deaths of five civilians, all of whom were women and children, as well as a number of injuries. The members of the Security Council expressed their sincere condolences to the Government and people of Turkey, and to the families of the victims.

This represents a demonstration of the spilling over of the crisis in Syria into neighboring states to an alarming degree. The members of the Council demanded that such violations stop immediately. The members of the Security Council requested the Government of Syria to carry out a speedy and full investigation of the shelling. The members of the Security Council called on the Syrian Government to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours.

The members of the Security Council called on the parties to exercise restraint and avoid military clashes which could lead to a further escalation of the situation in the border area between Syria and Turkey, as well as to reduce tensions and forge a path toward a peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis.” 

Syrian Armed Forces becomes Syrian territory, violations of international law that threatened international peace and security simply become violations and the Syrian government is asked to conduct a speedy investigation. 

Here’s the final statement as agreed by all 15 Council members on Thursday evening (Oct 4):

“The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the shelling by the Syrian armed forces of the Turkish town of Akcakale, which resulted in the deaths of five civilians, all of whom were women and children, as well as a number of injuries. The members of the Security Council expressed their sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Turkey. 

The members of the Security Council underscored that this incident highlighted the grave impact the crisis in Syria has on the security of its neighbours and on regional peace and stability. The members of the Council demanded that such violations of international law stop immediately and are not repeated. The members of the Security Council called on the Syrian Government to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours. 

The members of the Security Council called for restraint.”

Both sides got some of what they wanted in the final version. Key for Russia is deletion of the phrase “a serious threat to international peace and security,” which speaks directly to the Council’s mandate, – maintaing international peace and security – and instead the shelling is a threat to “regional peace and stability.”

For the West, Syrian armed forces are squarely blamed and the statement demands an end to “such violations of international law.” 

- Denis Fitzgerald