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UNSC resolution on Syria crisis must have bite to back up bark
Publication Date : 02-10-2013
The resolution on Syria adopted by the UN Security Council on Friday marked the first step in the international community’s attempt to work together to end the civil war raging in that country. It is essential that the international community must demonstrate the resolution designed to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal will be effective.
The resolution bans Syria from producing and moving chemical weapons, and calls for the country to relinquish all such weapons in the first half of 2014.
Three previous resolutions critical of the administration of President Bashar Assad over the civil war had been submitted to the Security Council at the initiative of the United States, Britain and France. However, none were approved because they were vetoed by Russia, which supports the Assad administration, and China.
This is the first time a resolution obligating Syria to take specific actions has been adopted at the Security Council after being approved by Russia and China. As such, it is extremely significant.
US President Barack Obama has lacked consistency in carrying out a series of diplomatic moves vis-a-vis Damascus, undercutting the high expectations placed on him to play a leadership role. As things turned out, however, leadership on this matter fell into the hands of Russia, which has been trying to extend the life of the Assad regime.
When the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons came to light in August, Obama announced a plan to launch a punitive military attack against Syria. But with the US Congress appearing increasingly unlikely to back Obama’s plan, he accepted a Russian proposal calling for eliminating Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons, thereby postponing the military strike.
The resolution adopted this time calls for carrying out enforcement steps based on Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows for economic sanctions and military action, if the Assad administration fails to comply. This reflects the demands of the United States and some other Security Council members.
Russia still holds key
Adoption of another resolution is considered necessary to take action against Syria based on Chapter 7. So, Russia will continue to hold the key in determining the course of action.
Syria reportedly possesses a chemical weapons arsenal of about 1,000 tons that are stored in various parts of the country. There are fears that inspecting and eliminating these weapons amid the ongoing civil war could face massive difficulties.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will start inspections this month and decide by mid-November how and where to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.
To achieve the goal of totally eliminating Syria’s chemical arms in just nine months, the staff, funding and equipment of the OPCW will need to be boosted. Japan should cooperate as much as possible in this respect.
The resolution also calls for holding an international conference at an early date to discuss a path to peace with participation of representatives from the Assad administration, antigovernment forces and countries with a stake in the matter. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon reportedly aims to hold this meeting in mid-November.
More than 100,000 people have already died in the Syrian civil war. Victims of the chemical weapons attack accounted for a fraction of this figure. This inhumane tragedy should no longer be allowed to go on. International efforts must be made to reach a ceasefire through the conference and pave the way to end the civil war.