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UN Week – 8/6/12

August 8, 2012

This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.

By John and Douglas Carey

In this issue: Annan climbs out of the Syrian swamp; GA jumps in; anti-terrorism measures catalogued. 

Annan climbs out of the Syrian swamp.

Kofi Annan threw in the towel on August 2nd after repeated rebuffs in his efforts to mediate between the Assad regime and its enemies. He did this in spite of what he called “high concern for the security of Syria’s chemical and biological weapons.” It remains to be seen whether the UN and Arab League will appoint a successor special envoy. Annan is not encouraging.

He made a passing reference to “Syria’s communal divisions” which had not been bridged by the opposition. He may have had in mind the sectarian divide between the ruling Alowite elite and Syria’s Sunni majority. He predicted that, “only a serious negotiated political transition can hope to end the repressive rule of the past and avoid a future descent into a vengeful sectarian war.”

Annan challenged Russia, China and Iran to “take concerted efforts to persuade Syria’s leadership to change course and embrace a political transition.” He told the US, UK, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to press the opposition “to embrace a fully inclusive political process – that will include communities and institutions currently associated with the government.” Clearly there is a lot more he could have said, but sometimes it is best for a departing leader to say less rather than more. Had he named the “communities and institutions currently associated with the government” that he would like the opposition to include, he might have prevented such a development from occurring.

GA jumps in.

The very next day, August 3rd, the General Assembly had its turn, unhampered by any veto. Its resolution was hailed by US Ambassador Susan E. Rice in these glowing terms:

“The United States welcomes the strong message that the United Nations General Assembly delivered today both to the Syrian regime and to the Syrian people. Today’s General Assembly resolution, supported by an overwhelming majority of UN member states, strongly condemns the Syrian authorities’ increasing use of heavy weapons and its ongoing and intensifying human rights abuses. The General Assembly demanded once more that the first step in the cessation of violence be made by the Assad regime. Importantly, the resolution also welcomes the Arab League’s July 22nd decision, which calls for Assad to step down and for a transitional government to be formed. The United States is pleased that the General Assembly has made it abundantly clear that Syria’s chemical weapons must remain secure and that members of the regime will be held accountable in the event such weapons are used.           “Despite the continued opposition of an increasingly isolated minority, the overwhelming majority of UN members clearly stands resolutely with the Syrian people as they seek to fulfill their legitimate aspirations. The United States will continue to work with like-minded partners both at the United Nations and elsewhere, including with the over 130 countries who supported today’s resolution, to advance Syria’s transition, provide humanitarian support to those in need, and unify and strengthen the political opposition.”

Anti-terrorism measures catalogued.

A 15-page Secretariat report, A/67/162, dated July 19th was issued last week, entitled “Measures to eliminate international terrorism.” The summary on page 1 says that, “the report contains information on measures taken at the national and international levels, based on submissions from Governments and international organizations. Section III contains a list of international legal instruments. Section IV provides information on workshops and training courses on combating crimes connected with international terrorism.” A few examples follow. (included in the TV version)

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