US ambassador Susan Rice says some powers might consider action outside the UN framework in the Syria crisis unless the Security Council increases pressure on Syria in response to the Assad regime’s continuing ceasefire violations.
Rice says the Syrian government’s recent attacks against civilians and continued failure to withdraw heavy weapons from urban areas have derailed Kofi Annan’s mediation efforts and hopes for a political solution to the crisis.
While she reiterated US support for Kofi Annan’s peace initiative on Wednesday, Rice argued it seems increasingly unlikely the Syrian government will comply with the plan without additional Security Council action.
“The first and best outcome would be for the government of Syria to finally and immediately implement its commitments under the Annan plan as it’s obliged to do under UN Security Council resolutions.” Rice told reporters after UN deputy envoy to Syria Jean Marie Guehenno briefed the Security Council on recent developments and talks with officials in Damascus.
“At this point, however, that does not seem to be a high probability scenario.”
Rice says that if the Assad regime continues to violate its commitments to the ceasefire, the Security Council will have a responsibility to bolster Kofi Annan’s plan with other measures, including possible sanctions to”put additional pressure on the Syrian authorities to meet its commitments.”
“The decision rests in the first instance with the Syrian government, whether it will fulfill its commitments” Rice said. “If it doesn’t, this Council has a responsibility to act. And act swiftly and surely.”
But Rice says she’s concerned the Security Council’s failure to agree to new measures against the Assad regime could lead to a surge of violence in Syria that would destroy Kofi Annan’s peace initiative and transform the crisis into a proxy war that risks destabilizing the entire region.
“Indeed the worst case, which seems unfortunately at the present to be the most probable, and that is that the violence escalates, the conflict spreads and intensifies and reaches a higher degree of severity.” Rice said. “The Council’s unity is exploded, the Annan plan is dead, and this becomes a proxy conflict with arms flowing in from all sides.”
She says such a scenario could led some Security Council members “to consider wether they are prepared to take actions outside of the Annan plan and the authority of this Council.”
But Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin warned that Moscow continues to oppose the use of UN sanctions against the Assad regime, and emphasized that both the Syrian government and opposition groups share blame for the failure of the Annan plan and have a responsibility to respect its provisions.
“ There are very severe sanctions on Syria, unilateral sanctions adopted by a number if countries, and they are having a very severe effect. Why do we have to have Security Council sanctions on the government in order to tell the opposition that they need to entire into dialogue?” he said outside the Council.
Churkin argued that arm shipments to rebels continue to increase at an alarming rate and opposition groups like the Syrian National Council refused to engage in negotiations and had repeatedly called for foreign military intervention.
“Nobody is implementing the Kofi Annan plan.” he said. “On many levels the Kofi Annan plan has not been implemented; by the [Syrian] government, by the opposition and by the international community. The best way to avoid catastrophic scenarios is to try to implement the Kofi Annan. And the effort must be made by everybody.”