Washington — The United States is pressing Russia to agree to a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria that would impose consequences on the Syrian government for its failure to comply with U.N. and Arab League Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s peace efforts, including ending the use of heavy weaponry against the Syrian people.
In Jerusalem, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said July 16 that U.S. diplomats “are working very hard in New York in the Security Council to obtain a Chapter 7 resolution with consequences,” and that Annan is in Moscow for discussions with Russian officials in an effort to directly make the case for the resolution.
Annan has expressed the need for a Chapter 7 resolution, and Clinton said, “We agree with that completely. So we’re going to continue to press forward in the Security Council. We’re going to continue to press the Russians because that is an important part of reaching a resolution in the Security Council.”
The secretary expressed concern over the increase in violence, which has spread to the Syrian capital, Damascus, and its suburbs, and said Bashar al-Assad’s regime cannot survive.
“I just wish that it would move out of the way sooner instead of later so that more lives could be saved, and we could have the chance to achieve the kind of democratic transition that we all, including Russia, agreed to,” she said.
In an interview with CNN July 16, Clinton said the United States is trying to intervene in the conflict “in a way that brings about an end to the violence and a transition to a democratic future,” but which “doesn’t require adding to the violence, further militarizing the conflict, perhaps killing more people and pushing them across the borders.”
The secretary said “everyone is very wary, for good reason, of that kind of intervention,” and does not want to add to the violence.
She urged others in the international community to “put pressure on Russia in the Security Council so that they will support a Chapter 7 resolution,” that imposes “very hard sanctions on people and institutions that support the regime” if it fails to implement U.N. peace efforts.
“That would be the best signal we could send to Assad that his days are numbered,” she said.
In New York, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice said July 16 that more than 100 Syrians are dying per day on average, and the Security Council needs to “do something different to change the dynamic on the ground.”
In his July 10 report to the Security Council, Annan said Assad had repeated his commitment to immediately halt the use of heavy weapons against the Syrian people, but Rice said he has instead “intensified” their use, including at the village of Traymseh where 200 men, women and children were massacred by Syrian forces using artillery, tanks and helicopters.
The Security Council is discussing the renewal of the 300-person United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), whose mandate expires July 20. Rice said the Chapter 7 resolution that has been put on the table by the United Kingdom addresses the need for “something new” in response to the nearly 18 months of violence in Syria.
Annan’s peace efforts need to be made binding, and the Security Council needs to be prepared to “consider and to implement sanctions in a short period of time if nothing changes,” she said.
Given Assad’s repeated failure to honor his commitments, “we think this resolution is the only one that makes any sense,” Rice said.
“What we’re asking is that the Council do something different, that we apply meaningful pressure on the Assad regime to stop the use of heavy weapons, which is a critical first step to get any cease-fire going and to get any political process going. But if we do nothing, if we just perpetuate the status quo, then we are consigning Syria and the region to much-intensified conflict,” she said.
U.S. HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE CONTINUES
According to a July 16 State Department fact sheet, the Obama administration is providing nearly $64 million in humanitarian relief for people who have been affected by the violence, both inside Syria and in neighboring countries that are hosting those who have fled the violence.
The assistance includes $27.5 million to the World Food Programme; $15.1 million to various nongovernmental organizations; $8.5 million to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees; and $8 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross. In addition, the United States is providing support through the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East; the U.N. Children’s Fund; the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; and the U.N. Department of Safety and Security.
According to the fact sheet, the United Nations estimates that up to 1.5 million people in Syria need urgent humanitarian assistance, and between 300,000 and 500,000 have fled their homes because of the violence.
U.S. assistance has included medical supplies, food, water, clothing, hygiene kits and other humanitarian relief, and is being distributed to the most vulnerable “on the basis of need, not political affiliation,” the State Department said.
The State Department praised humanitarian workers in Syria who are “putting their lives on the line on a daily basis to deliver aid to those suffering from the escalating violence.” It also commended the generosity of Syria’s neighbors in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, “who have kept their borders open and are hosting and providing assistance to those fleeing the violence in Syria.”