Security Council Statement on Syria

The Security Council just issued a presidential statement on the situation in Syria:

The Security Council expresses its grave concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria, and expresses profound regret at the death of many hundreds of people.

The Security Council condemns the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities.

The Security Council calls for an immediate end to all violence and urges all sides to act with utmost restraint, and to refrain from reprisals, including attacks against state institutions.

The Security Council calls on the Syrian authorities to fully respect human rights and to comply with their obligations under applicable international law. Those responsible for the violence should be held accountable.

The Security Council notes the announced commitments by the Syrian authorities to reform, and regrets the lack of progress in implementation, and calls upon the Syrian Government to implement its commitments.

The Security Council reaffirms its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Syria. It stresses that the only solution to the current crisis in Syria is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process, with the aim of effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the population which will allow the full exercise of fundamental freedoms for its entire population, including that of expression and peaceful assembly.

The Security Council calls on the Syrian authorities to alleviate the humanitarian situation in crisis areas by ceasing the use of force against affected towns, to allow expeditious and unhindered access for international humanitarian agencies and workers, and cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to update the Security Council on the situation in Syria within 7 days.

It is important to note that this is not a Security Council resolution.  It is a presidential statement, which is generally considered weaker than a resolution because it does not carry the force of law. But statements like this are symbolically important for the fact that unlike a resolution, a presidential statement requires unanimity of the council. That is, not one of the 15 members can object for the resolution to pass.  That means that the statement today was agreed to by Russia and China–the two Security Council members that had up till now been very reluctant to raise Syria at the Council. For the first time Russia and China are on board with the idea of condemning atrocities committed by the Syrian regime. This is diplomatic progress.

Ambassador Rice agrees. On a conference call moments ago, Ambassador Rice described the statement as a “clear and unequivocal condemnation of violence committed by the Syrian government.”  She added, “the Syrian government will hopefully be chastened by the strength and unity of the statement…they must be surprised and disappointed with this outcome.”