UN assembly adopts Arab-backed resolution on Syria

India was among 137 members of the UN General Assembly that voted today to approve a resolution, which ''strongly'' condemns all violence and human rights violations in Syria and supports Arab League efforts to resolve the nearly year long crisis in the country.

The resolution, adopted by a vote of 137 in favour to 12 against with 17 abstentions, also called on Syria "to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against civilians."

The vote, though non-binding in nature, is seen as a strong rebuke to President Bashar Al Assad's continued and bloody crackdown on protesters during the pro-democracy uprising that began in March last year.

In explaining India's vote on the UNGA resolution, Permanent Representative Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said, "We think that prolonged instability and unrest in Syria have serious implications for peace and stability in the wider region. We strongly condemn all violence, irrespective of whoever the perpetrators are. We also condemn all violations of human rights.

"Our support for the resolution adopted by this Assembly today is in accordance with our support for the efforts by the Arab League for a peaceful resolution of the crisis through a Syrian-led inclusive political process," Puri added.

Among the nations to oppose the resolution in the 193-member General Assembly were China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea.

Speaking before the vote in the Assembly, Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari called the draft a "biased" text that has nothing to do with the situation in his country.

Ja'afari said he had "deep concerns" vis-a-vis the real intentions of the countries that have co-sponsored the text and called on these countries to stop interfering in internal Syrian affairs and stop adding fuel to the fire.

He cited several developments that respond to popular demands, including the referendum set for February 26 on a new constitution and the intention to hold a national dialogue.

Meanwhile, Puri said India has conveyed to the Syrian leadership, both bilaterally as well as along with its IBSA partners Brazil and South Africa, the urgent need to abjure violence and pay heed to the aspirations of the Syrian people.

"Unfortunately, the situation has continued to deteriorate. We have also witnessed several terrorist attacks in different parts of the country. Resort to violence by all sides in the crisis remains unabated," the Indian envoy added.

Puri noted that India is of the view that a political process for resolution of the present crisis should be led by the Syrians themselves.

The main role of the international community, including the UN General Assembly, must be to facilitate engagement of the Syrian Government with all sections of Syrian society for an "inclusive political process, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of all Syrians while ensuring respect for the country's independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity."

He said the Arab League should play its required role in promoting political dialogue among the Syrian parties.

Puri, however, expressed regret at the procedure followed in the General Assembly during the week in discussing the situation in Syria.

"Exceptions to established procedures are best avoided to maintain the credibility of any institution. Also, it would do us immense good if there is greater readiness from all quarters to negotiate a text with a view to reaching a consensus," he added.

"... the resolution just adopted expressly reaffirms that all countries should refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State or act in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations," he said.

Calling on all opposition forces in Syria to peacefully engage in constructive dialogue with the authorities, Puri said India has noted the decision of the Syrian leaderhsip to hold a referendum on a new draft constitution on February 26 and organise multi-party elections within next three months.

The resolution calls for Assad to relinquish powers to his vice president and demands that the Syrian government immediately cease all violence and protect its people.

UN officials estimate that Syrian security forces have killed well over 5,400 people in the last one year. Thousands of people are also believed to be missing, some 70,000 people are internally displaced and 25,000 have fled the country.

The resolution also strongly condemned the continued "widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities," such as the use of force against civilians, arbitrary executions, the killing and persecution of protesters, human rights defenders and journalists, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, interference with access to medical treatment, torture, sexual violence and ill-treatment, including against children.

Welcoming the adoption of the resolution, General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said it "demonstrates the world's concern, commitment and solidarity with the Syrian people, especially regarding the protection of civilians and the overall situation in Syria. Today's development also shows that Member States, through the UN General Assembly, are willing to act to maintain stability."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said the Assembly resolution had indicated "a way toward a political solution and a peaceful future in Syria, with democracy, human rights and dignity for all of the Syrian people."

Ban said as Syria's crisis has deepened, "bringing escalating violence and suffering to the Syrian people, it is critical for the world to speak with one voice to put an end to the bloodshed and to exert maximum efforts to resolve this crisis peacefully."

The Secretary-General called on the Syrian authorities to heed the call of the international community to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against its citizens, and to fully comply with its obligations under international law.

"Today, the General Assembly has expressed its support for the plan of the League of Arab States to facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system. This process must respect the will and the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people," Ban added.

The UNGA vote follows the recent failure by the Security Council to agree on collective action on the issue after Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution endorsing Arab League efforts to end the Syrian crisis

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