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Syria crisis

US, Europe reject Syria’s presidential elections as ‘a sham’ in advance

Published: Updated:

Western members of the UN Security Council, led by the United States, France and Britain, on Wednesday rejected the outcome of Syria’s May 26 presidential election in advance, a position denounced by Russia as “unacceptable.”

“The failure to enact a new constitution is proof positive that the so-called election on May 26 will be a sham,” US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said during a monthly session of the Security Council on Syria.

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The regime of President Bashar al-Assad -- projected to win the vote under the current circumstances -- “must take steps to enable the participation of refugees, internally displaced persons, and the diaspora in any Syrian elections. Until then, we will not be fooled,” she said.

“France will not recognize any validity to the elections planned by the regime at the end of May,” said the French ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Riviere.

Without including Syrians abroad, they “will be held under the sole control of the regime, without international supervision” as provided for by a UN resolution, he added.

“Elections that take place in the absence of a safe and neutral environment, in an ongoing climate of fear, when millions of Syrians depend on humanitarian aid... do not confer political legitimacy, but instead demonstrate disregard for the Syrian people,” British diplomat Sonia Farrey said.

Estonia and other members of the European Union believe a Syrian election must be held under the aegis of the UN and include the opposition and its diaspora, said Estonian ambassador Sven Jurgenson.

“Anything else would be considered yet another farce,” he added.

But their Russian counterpart, Vassily Nebenzia, whose country is a strong supporter of Damascus, called the idea that some nations have already rejected the results “distressing.”

He denounced “unacceptable interference in Syria’s internal affairs.”

During the session, the UN confirmed a resurgence of clashes in the northwest of the country, which is beyond the control of Damascus, and a humanitarian situation further worsened by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The May 26 presidential election comes two decades into Assad’s regime, and is the second to be held since the start of a devastating conflict in 2011 that has left more than 388,000 people dead and displaced more than half of Syria’s population.

Read more: First woman ever applies to run for president of Syria