UN Votes to Continue Ignoring Syria
New York, December 1 (AP) – Just two days following a dramatic vote to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state in the United Nations, the UN General Assembly took the important symbolic step of affirming its commitment to ignoring the bloodshed in neighboring Syria.
In a 171-5 vote with fourteen abstentions, the General Assembly showcased its resolve to focus only on conflicts where its impact is of marginal relevance, and to avoid significant discussion of ongoing warfare until major powers are already involved. At that point, the resolution noted, the UN would feel free to denounce and decry such involvement for its “unilateral” character, lacking as it does international sanction through the UN.
Vitaly Churkin, the head of Russia’s mission to the UN, told the Associated Press, “We are pleased at the broad international consensus to let the civil war in Syria play out without interference from the international community,” as opposed to the question of Palestine, on which the United Nations felt strongly that it must take a stand in favor of one side. Churkin stressed the differences between the two conflicts, noting that Muslim must be free to engage in slaughter among themselves, as in Iraq and Afghanistan; only when non-Arabs mistreat Arabs is outside interference justified.
Russia, a longtime supporter and ally of Syrian President Basher Assad, has resisted international involvement in the Syrian conflict since the uprising began twenty months ago. But even countries ostensibly supportive of the rebels came out in favor of the resolution. “It’s one thing to hope for a certain outcome,” explained Ertuğrul Apakan, the Turkish ambassador, “but the world draws the line when it means getting entangled in messy conflicts such as this one,” he said, specifically ignoring the fact that just two days ago the same world took an unequivocal position in a conflict next door to the one in Syria. Despite an influx of Syrian refugees and Turkish casualties from Syrian air and artillery attacks, Turkey supported the non-involvement resolution because Ankara wishes to allow itself as much flexibility as possible in stifling Kurdish rebels in the country’s east.
China threw its weight behind the resolution, echoing Russian sentiments. Experts believe the Chinese are gearing up to introduce a similar measure regarding Tibet, and they wish to drum up as much international momentum as possible for looking the other way as Tibetans persist in self-immolation to protest continued Chinese repression of Tibetan culture and aspirations for independence.
The United States was the only major power to vote against the resolution. In remarks preceding the vote, Ambassador Susan Rice decried the hypocrisy inherent in the measure, which discriminates against the Syrians. “While the armies of African countries freely meddle in their neighbors’ affairs, this august body refuses to allow the Syrian people the same right,” she admonished the other representatives. “The United States smells more than a hint of prejudice here, in a resolution that, by omission, strongly implies that it is fine for nations to assist in the slaughter of tens of thousands of sub-Saharan Africans, but that Alawites are off-limits,” she continued, referring to the minority Syrian sect that has governed the country since the 1970’s.
Canada abstained. Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski explained his country’s position by noting that the Canadian government had come to the realization that with few exceptions, everything the UN touches only gets worse. “Better to lead by example,” he said.
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