The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution Friday criticizing the Security Council’s failure to act on the Syrian conflict and condemning the government's use of heavy weapons.
The resolution, drawn up by Saudi Arabia with widespread Arab and Western backing, was passed by 133 votes with 12 countries against and 33 abstaining.
The resolution also had the assembly “deploring the failure of the Security Council to agree on measures to ensure the compliance of Syrian authorities with its decisions.”
The anti-Syria resolution easily passed in the 193-member General Assembly after its Arab sponsors de-fanged two key provisions in the original draft -- a demand that President Bashar Assad resign, and a call for other nations to place sanctions on Syria over its civil war.
The Assembly was overshadowed by the resignation of former U.N. chief Kofi Annan on Thursday as the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria after his peace proposals failed.
Though the resolution is not legally binding, there was increased attention on the General Assembly action after the resignation of Annan and the mounting battle for the Syrian city of Aleppo.
Failure of Security Council
The resolution said members deplored “the Security Council failure to agree on measures” to make the Syrian government carry out U.N. demands to end almost 18 months of fighting.
It condemned “the Syrian authorities use of heavy weapons including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters” and demanded that the government refrain from using its chemical weapons.
Saudi Arabia drew up the resolution with Arab and western backing and its U.N. envoy said the success of the vote was “painful victory” because of events in Syria.
After the vote, Saudi Ambassador Abdullah al-Mouallimi told reporters the double vetoes gave “the impression that the Security Council was turning a blind eye to the painful reality.”
He said there was “a consensus that does not support the paralysis of the Security Council, a consensus that says the United Nations cannot be oblivious to the suffering of the Syrian people, a consensus that demands action.”
During negotiations ahead of the vote, demands that the motion include a call for Assad stand down and a call for sanctions against his government were dropped because of opposition from non-aligned countries.
But it still welcomed an Arab League decision passed last month which calls for Assad to leave office.
Syria strongly opposed the resolution and its U.N. envoy, Bashar Jafaari accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states of arming rebel groups.
Jafaari said the resolution showed the “hypocrisy” of Saudi Arabia and that it would “no impact whatsoever.”
Jaafari also lashed out at the Qatari and Saudi Arabian media and accused them of defaming his reputation as well as members of his family.
“There have been several threats of murder against me and various Syrian diplomats from sites that exist in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and the United States,” Jaafari told the 193-member assembly before the Saudi-sponsored resolution was passed.
Afterwards, the Syrian envoy told reporters that he had informed U.S. authorities of the threats against him.
While U.S. envoy Susan Rice welcomed the vote, many countries expressed reservations. South Africa, which voted in favor, said the resolution should have been tougher on the Syrian opposition.
Aleppo brutality crimes against humanity
The U.N. secretary general told the General Assembly the conflict has become a “proxy war” and that the international powers must overcome rivalries to end the violence.
The reported brutality in Syria’s biggest city, Aleppo, where forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels continue to face off in bloody clashes, may amount to crimes against humanity, the U.N. chief said.
“As we meet here, Aleppo ... is the epicenter of a vicious battle between the Syrian government and those who wish to replace it,” Ban told the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly ahead of the vote on the Saudi-drafted resolution that would condemn Damascus, according to Reuters.
“The acts of brutality that are being reported may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes,” Ban said. “Such acts must be investigated and the perpetrators held to account.”
He also reiterated his concern about the deadlock on the U.N. Security Council. Last month Russia and China joined forces in their third double veto to strike down a resolution that would have called for an end to the violence and threatened Damascus with sanctions.
“I have said many times how much I regret the divisions that have paralyzed action in the Security Council,” he said.
He repeated that he intended to replace U.N.-Arab League mediator Annan, who announced on Thursday his intention to step down at the end of August. Annan said the deadlock on the 15-nation council was among the factors that had undermined his peace efforts. Annan also said that neither side in Syria appeared to want peace, a point Ban echoed on Friday.
“Despite repeated verbal acceptances of the (Annan’s) six-point (peace) plan endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, both the government and the opposition continue to rely on weapons, not diplomacy, in the belief that they will win through violence,” Ban said.
“But there are no winners in Aleppo today, nor anywhere else in the country,” he said. “The losers in this escalating battle are the people of Syria.”
U.N. peacekeepers were accused of not doing enough to stop the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim boys and men in the Bosnian town in July 1995.
“I do not want today’s United Nations to fail that test. I want us all to show the people of Syria and the world that we have learned the lessons of Srebrenica,” the U.N. leader said.
Russia and China have justified their vetoes by saying western nations want to force the downfall of Assad.