Arab nations will be seeking a new resolution on Syria at the UN General Assembly as rebel forces in Aleppo brace themselves for a bloody crackdown by regime forces.
Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi and Qatari diplomat Abdulrahman Al-Hamadi announced Arab plans to seek action by the 193-member world body, where there are no vetoes, during a Security Council debate on the Middle East on Wednesday.
They are calling for a political transition and establishment of a democratic government in Syria after the UN Security Council’s failure to address the crisis.
The move follows the failed efforts last week to impose wider sanctions on Syria which collapsed when Russia and China vetoed the Security Council resolution put forward by a number of countries, including the UK.
Mr Al-Hamadi said the Syrian government’s threat to use chemical and biological weapons, and other threats to the region, “have made us feel even further regret with the inability of the Security Council to deal with the Syrian crisis in an effective manner”.
Therefore, he said, “the Arab group in New York is going to the General Assembly of the United Nations to deal with the serious threat represented by the Syrian crisis”.
The push for action in the General Assembly followed an appeal earlier by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for the world to unite in its response to Syria’s civil war and do all it can to stop what he called the slaughter taking place there.
“Today, the international community is being tested in Syria,” he said in a speech to Bosnia’s parliament in Sarajevo, the city at the heart of the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
“Without unity, there will be more bloodshed. More deadlock means more dead,” Mr Ban said. “That is why, here in the heart of a healing Bosnia and Herzegovina, I make a plea to the world: do not delay. Come together. Act. Act now to stop the slaughter in Syria.”
Mr Ban said other countries intervened in Libya and the Ivory Coast to stop widespread killing there, but failed during the Bosnian war to prevent Bosnian Serbs from killing more than 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks in Srebrenica while the town was officially under UN protection.
“Quite simply, we must do better in seeing atrocities coming and telling it like it is. We cannot take refuge behind strong words and weak action,” he said.
UN diplomats said Arab League ministers had decided to seek a strong General Assembly resolution at a meeting last weekend.
The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the text has not been circulated, said it will likely include language on the chemical weapons threat, an endorsement of Mr Annan’s peace plan and the guidelines for a political transition adopted at a conference in Geneva last month, a demand to allow humanitarian workers access to the entire country, and possibly a call for other countries to follow Arab League sanctions.
Syria’s UN ambassador Bashar Ja’afari accused the Saudis and Qataris of shedding “crocodile tears over the suffering of the Syrian people”. He also accused them of “conspiring” against Mr Annan’s peace plan and the guidelines for a political transition in order to escalate tensions against Syria and its interests in the General Assembly after they failed to do so in the Security Council.
Talks of a resolution came as Syrian troops continued to shell several neighbourhoods of Aleppo as the battle for control of Syria’s largest city raged for the sixth day.
Activists believe the bombardment will be followed by a ground campaign to pacify the city. On Wednesday, goverment troops were reportedly gathering with reinforcements on the way.
Last week, Syrian troops used a similar combination of aerial bombardments and overwhelming ground force to quash a rebel assault on Damascus.
One local activist Saeed said that the shelling seems to be random and clashes have spread to key neighbourhoods in the centre of the city.