UN General Assembly rips Syria crackdown

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UNITED NATIONS -- The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly denounced Syria's crackdown on dissent Friday in a symbolic effort meant to push the deadlocked Security Council and the world at large into action to stop the country's civil war.

Before the vote, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reminded the Assembly of the fresh violence in the city of Aleppo and drew comparisons between the failure to act in Syria with the international community's failure to protect people from past genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia; and Rwanda.

"The conflict in Syria is a test of everything this organization stands for," Ban said. "I do not want today's United Nations to fail that test." The vote came after the more powerful Security Council was stopped by a series of Russian and Chinese vetoes of resolutions that would have opened the door to sanctions on Syria.

The General Assembly vote was 133 in support of the resolution and 12 against, with 31 abstaining. Syria's ambassador angrily called the vote "a piece of theater." Though General Assembly resolutions are unenforceable, a strong vote can carry moral weight.

Even so, the resolution's Arab sponsors this week weakened two key provisions -- a demand that President Bashar Assad resign and a call for other nations to place sanctions on Syria.

Russia and China had objected to those provisions. Both voted "no" Friday, along with Syria, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Belarus, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

The revised resolution takes a swipe at Russia and China by "deploring the Security Council failure" to act.

Frustration over the lack of action was clear. Former UN chief Kofi Annan resigned Thursday as the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria after his peace proposals failed.

The Syria uprising has left 19,000 dead since it erupted in March 2011.

"The acts of brutality that are being reported may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes," Ban said of the Aleppo fighting. "Such acts must be investigated and the perpetrators held to account."

The resolution backs Annan's "demand that the first step in the cessation of violence has to be made by the Syrian authorities." It also demands the lockdown of the regime's chemical and biological weapons.

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