European nations seeking to increase pressure on President Bashar Assad’s regime presented a revised resolution to the United Nations on Wednesday condemning Syria for its deadly crackdown on peaceful protesters.
Britain, France, Germany and Portugal introduced the new text at a closed Security Council meeting in New York as Syrian troops and tanks made their way to the northern part of the country where soldiers reportedly have joined an anti-government uprising. Witnesses said they feared an attack was imminent.
U.N. diplomats said the new draft, which has strong U.S. backing, is aimed at winning more support for the resolution in the U.N. Security Council and avoiding a Russian veto.
“We will be on the right side of history if and when this comes to a vote,” said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. “If others are unable to, or unwilling to, then that will be their responsibility to bear.”
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin reiterated that Moscow would not support the resolution on the grounds that it would not promote dialogue and help put an end to the violence.
“We are concerned it would have the opposite effect,” Churkin said.
While Russia doesn’t support the draft, Churkin declined to say Wednesday whether Russia planned to veto the revised resolution.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said he hopes for a vote in the coming days.
The resolution needs nine “yes” votes to be adopted by the 15-member council, and no veto by a permanent member — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France.
Britain, France, Germany and Portugal circulated the original draft resolution on May 26, and diplomats said they have nine “yes” votes to adopt it, but they are hoping for additional support, possibly from South Africa and Brazil.
The original text demands that Syria take immediate steps “to address the legitimate aspirations of the population,” allow genuine political participation, release all prisoners of conscience and detainees, “and cease any intimidation, persecution, torture and arbitrary arrests of individuals, including lawyers, human rights defender and journalists.”
The sponsors believe Russia, China, India and Lebanon are very unlikely to support it, but the question is whether Russia, or possibly China, would cast a veto.
Earlier Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron warned “if anyone votes against that resolution or tries to veto it, that should be on their conscience.”
Major Western powers have urged Assad’s regime to halt the crackdown, enact reforms or step aside.
The resolution is separate from another effort to bring Syria before the Security Council over its nuclear program.
The United States and its allies are pushing ahead with efforts to bring Syria before the Security Council for failure to co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, despite opposition from China and Russia.