During the debate at the General Assembly, Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari questioned the aims of the resolution. He said that his government was in fact responding in an accelerated manner to demands for reform. He pointed out that a new Constitution would be put to a referendum on February 26, as part of these reforms. A comprehensive dialogue had been called for among all those who wished to maintain Syria's stability and to end the violence, he said.
However, he emphasized that UN member states must stop encouraging the violent groups in Syria, declaring that no state would tolerate the presence of armed terrorists on its territory. "Stop adding fuel to the fire," he warned "This step will not only bring disaster to Syria, but to all international relations," he concluded.
After the vote Jaafari said the resolution "would only lead to a tightening of the crisis and more violence in the region as a whole." Jaafari added that the United Nations was in danger of being used by "some member states" as a means of providing cover for "armed terrorist groups" in Syria.
Annan Appointed UN Special Envoy to Syria
In response to the UN resolution, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as joint United Nations-Arab League envoy on Syria. A UN statement said Annan's mandate is to work to bring an end to "all violence and human rights violations, and promot[e] a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis."
The statement also indicated that Annan will work with those inside and outside Syria to facilitate "a peaceful Syrian-led and inclusive political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people through a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition."
U.S. Violating Syrian Airspace
In an indication of how the UN resolution is being used to present intervention as a way to "protect the Syrian people," on February 18, the U.S. government announced that it is flying drones over Syrian airspace to "monitor the regime's crackdown on its people." The use of drones is a flagrant violation of Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity and is no doubt an attempt to legitimize the presence of foreign militaries in and over Syria. These are the same drones used around the world for targeted assassinations and surveillance of the targets of U.S. imperialism. To present them as a measure to protect the population is to fool the gullible.
Voting Results on UN Resolution
The draft resolution on the situation in Syria was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly by a recorded vote of 137 in favour to 12 against, with 17 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Zambia.
Against: Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.
Abstentions: Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Cameroon, Comoros, Fiji, Lebanon, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam.
Absent: Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Mali, Palau, Philippines, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Yemen.
(Global Research, UN News Service)
Aims of Sanctions Opposed
A Syrian economic expert speaking to the Xinhua news agency denounced the attempts by the U.S. and its allies to destabilize the Syrian economy as a last ditch effort to try and bring down the government. "They tried to test Syria through many aspects. They tried social [means] and tried to foment sectarian rifts. But all their attempts were to no avail," said Adnan Abdul-Razzak.
"They even tried the UN Security Council, but they also reached a deadlock... Now there is nothing left other than the economic door to knock on given its unparalleled significance," he added.
Abdul-Razzak said he believed that the economic pressures aim to undermine Syria's infrastructure and to control the course of events.
Due to the economic sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and some Arab countries, most of the economic agreements between Syria and a number of foreign countries have been brought to a standstill, which has deprived the country of lucrative economic revenues, Abdul-Razzak said.
The Western sanctions have targeted a number of important sectors in Syria, mainly the oil and banking sectors. The losses in the Syrian oil sector are estimated at more than U.S.$11 million per day. The losses are mainly due to lost revenue from oil exports to Europe. Syria's daily oil output is estimated at 380,000 barrels
Abdul-Razzak condemned the sanctions as "immoral," saying that the biggest victims of the sanctions are the Syrian citizens, as the prices of basic foodstuff have skyrocketed while some other goods have become unavailable in the market.
This situation has created a suitable atmosphere for increased monopolization, an issue that has a serious impact on citizens, he said.
The economic sanctions have also led to a 40 per cent depreciation of the Syrian pound and a 20 per cent growth in inflation.
Abdul-Razzak said he believed that there are other foreign and internal factors, including the government's monetary policy, contributing to the depreciation of the Syrian pound.
Tourism, a main source of foreign currency for Syria, has been seriously affected by the Syrian crisis, Abdul-Razzak said, noting that the sector had barely any revenue in 2011 although the government had made efforts to attract tourists.
However, Abdul-Razzak pointed out that the Syrian economy is still vigorous and trustworthy and there are some alternative markets for Syrian products.
The central bank of Syria has a sufficient reserve of foreign currency and gold, which would appease concerns about a possible economic collapse in the country, Abdul-Razzak said.
"The Syrian economy will not collapse in the
foreseeable future," he said, calling on the Syrian government to take
rigorous and rational measures to protect the economy.
In related news, Prensa Latina reports that on February 20 Iran and Syria announced that they will consolidate their strategic relations and ties at a crucial time for both countries, after the implementation of a free trade agreement (FTA). The agreement is set to take effect 30 days after the announcement. "The FTA, seen in both capitals as an important step to complement their economies, establishes that Syrian products on the Iranian market, for example, will enjoy a gradual reduction of customs tariffs over the next five years," Prensa Latina reports.
Those rates will decrease 20 per cent each year over the next five years up to zero, while Syria will bring about preferential facilities to investors and goods from Iran.
Syrian Deputy Minister of Economy and Trade Khaled Sallouteh travelled to Tehran, where he signed the executive program that will encourage the enactment of FTA.
After considering that bilateral ties have always favoured the Syrian and Iranian peoples, Sallouteh said that the signing of the executive program will speed up procedures and will pave the way to implement the agreement, ratified by the parliaments of the two countries.
Iranian Warships Arrive in Syria
A flotilla of Iranian warships crossed the Suez Canal and docked at the Syrian port of Tartus on Saturday, February 18.
The deputy chairman of the Iranian Majlis' (parliament) National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Hossein Ebrahimi said:
"The presence of Iran and Russia's flotillas along the Syrian coasts is a clear message against the United States' possible adventurism. In case of any U.S. strategic mistake in Syria, there is a possibility that Iran, Russia and a number of other countries will give a crushing response to the U.S."
Asia Times Online writer and former Indian diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar quotes Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz as follows:
"Western officials fear that Iranian military presence along with Russian aid could turn Syria into a center of international friction much worse than the struggle inside Syria. They fear that the control over actions in Syria will be taken over by a Russian-Iranian 'partnership' which would exclude the European Union and Turkey [...]"
"However, Tehran is also testing the waters. Under international law, Iran enjoys the right of passage for its warships to pass through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. But Egypt's equations with Iran remain ambivalent.
"Egypt never allowed Iranian warships to cross the Suez until February last year following the overthrow of the Hosni Mubarak regime when, undeterred by the diplomatic pressure from the U.S. and threatening noises from Israel, Cairo allowed an Iranian destroyer to pass through. Israel called it a 'provocation.'
"But since then, Egypt has been in turmoil and the initial enthusiasm for normalization of ties with Tehran has somewhat waned even as Egypt became dependent on financial help from Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf.
"Thus, the permission given to an entire Iranian fleet to cross the Suez last weekend signifies not only Egypt's thinking toward Iran but also the growing complexities and unpredictability of its relations with the U.S.
"The Egypt-U.S. ties are passing through testing times. A potentially serious row has erupted with a crackdown on several dozen foreign non-governmental organization (NGO) workers by the Egyptian authorities, including 19 American nationals. An undisclosed number of U.S. citizens have taken shelter in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
"Cairo announced on Saturday that 43 of these suspects who include foreigners (Americans, Serbs, Germans, Norwegians, Jordanians and Palestinians) and Egyptians will be put on trial [February 26] charged with 'establishing unlicensed chapters of international organizations and accepting foreign funding to finance these groups in a manner that breached the Egyptian state's sovereignty.'
"Washington has warned Cairo that the crackdown could harm bilateral ties and hinted that it might cut off military aid amounting to U.S.$1.3 billion annually. Washington apprehends that a public trial could expose the scale of the U.S. interference in Egypt's internal affairs. Ten prominent American civil-society organizations operating in Egypt have been raided, including the National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute and Freedom House, which receive U.S. government funding.
"The ruling Supreme Council for the Armed Forces in Cairo blames 'foreign hands' for the continued unrest in Egypt. The colorful Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Abul-Naga (who is one of the few officials from the Mubarak regime to retain her cabinet seat) is spearheading the campaign against the foreign funding for NGOs.The Muslim Brotherhood has threatened to review Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel if the U.S. cuts off aid. [...]"
Ha'aretz also reported that the Syrian army had captured 40 Turkish intelligence officers involved in subversive activities and over the past week Ankara has been "conducting intensive negotiations" with Damascus to secure their freedom. "But the latter insists in return [on]Turkey ending weapon transfers and infiltrations, and, furthermore, wants Iran to be the mediator," Bhadrakumar points out.
Saying No to Gunboat Diplomacy
After Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria on Feb. 4, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution condemning the violence in Syria on Feb. 16. Though non-binding, the newly passed resolution will put more pressure on the Syrian government and might prove to be the beginning of future outside intervention.
Sectarian conflicts, geopolitical factors, and particularly the West's "divide and conquer" involvement have given rise to the intense and sharp contradictions in the Arab World, and Syria's internal clashes have provided an excuse for the West to get involved.
The current Syrian crisis is not an issue purely concerning human rights protection as the West alleges. The West wants to topple the Syrian government and replace it with a pro-Western one. Syria is considered a problem in the West's Middle East strategy because of its close relations with Iran and Lebanon, which are hostile to the United States.
In order to play a part in the Middle East, the Arab League is willing to charge into the West's Middle East strategy. After solving the Syrian issue in a non-peaceful way, the West's next target, no doubt, will be Iran.
China's veto does not mean that Beijing takes sides with the Syrian government, or that it is turning a blind eye to the bloody clashes, it means it does not want Syria to end up on the same disastrous road as Libya, which finally ended in a full-scale civil war.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has the responsibility and obligation to defend the UN Charter, international justice and code of conduct, and so must reject any resolutions that are in violation of the UN Charter and purposes.
If China knows that a resolution is likely to endanger state sovereignty and go against justice and it does nothing, it will be serious malpractice.
The West's furious response to the vetoes by China and Russia shows the vetoes have exposed the West's true purpose of trying to dominate the Middle East and monopolize UN affairs, which they had sought to veil behind their lofty claims of protecting human rights in Syria.
The world has witnessed too many invasions of sovereign states and the killing of innocent civilians in the name of humanitarian intervention. The military interventions since the end of the Cold War show that the West, while holding high the banner of human rights protection is in reality seeking its own global or regional strategic interests.
Whether in the countries invaded after the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., or in some Muslim states that underwent "color revolutions" last year, the fact of the matter is, instead of protecting human rights the invasions and "revolutions" have caused domestic stability and the humanitarian situation to deteriorate.
Experience shows that, since the Cold War, Western countries, no matter how great their quarrels are, will join hands when in conflict with non-Western countries. Even in this era of globalization, there is still a clear dividing line between the West and non-Western world.
For historical and practical reasons, the balance of power between the West, especially the U.S., and non-Western world is uneven. As absolute power without supervision and restriction results in corruption inside a state, a power without a counterweight in the international community also will become imperious and ruthless, which, threatens the stability of the whole world.
After the Cold War, the U.S. managed to "have a firm hold over the UN to oppress the international community" while small and medium-sized countries dared not voice their discontent.
The U.S.' hysterical reaction to China's veto shows it has not adapted to China's change. At a time when gunboat policy has been revived in a new guise, a modest, self-disciplined diplomatic approach seems ill timed.
If China and the U.S. can peacefully coexist, it will be an unprecedented, pioneering undertaking. But the history of China-U.S. contacts indicates such cooperation cannot be attained through compromise or requests, nor should [we] expect any cooperation for [a] win-win [situation] by our own wishful thinking. Struggle without breaking relations should not be the bottom line of the Chinese attitude to the U.S., only when we are ready to pay the price for splitting will we manage to attain the struggle without splitting.
No matter how difficult the external situation is, China won't stop developing. Not until the diplomats stop appealing for "heart-to-heart" thinking. Not until the 1.3 billion Chinese people's feelings are no longer easy to hurt, and not until China is able to defend the UN Charter and norms and world peace and justice with actions instead of just words.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China should shoulder the great responsibility of safeguarding world peace. In order to maintain unity, China has been restrained in the use of its veto.
As one member of the international community, China is aware that it cannot realize its own interests without cooperation with the outside world. But China will also be alert to those Western countries that push too far. Having been invaded by Western powers, China understands the suffering that results. So a rising China will not repeat the errors of others, because the Chinese people believe that what you do not want done to yourself, you do not impose on others.
The author is a professor at the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China.
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