UNGA adopts resolution on Syria, India abstains

United Nations: The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly adopted a Saudi-drafted resolution on Syria that denounced the escalating violence in the country and demanded a political transition, a voting in which India was among 31 nations that abstained.

The symbolic UN General Assembly resolution, which expressed "grave concern" at the escalating violence in Syria, got 133 votes in favour in the 193-member body yesterday.

India abstained from voting after the Saudi-drafted text referred to calls for President Bashar Al Assad to step down and asked UN states to severe diplomatic relations with the troubled nation.

The resolution, which is not legally binding and is of a moral nature, also demanded that the country lockdown its chemical and biological weapons.

In his explanation of vote on the resolution, India`s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said the resolution makes specific reference to the July 22 resolution of the League of Arab States which "openly called for President Assad to step down from power and for other UN members to severe diplomatic relations and contacts with Syria."

He said while India does not hold any brief for any particular Syrian leader, it could not welcome the League`s resolution. "It is unfortunate that this element of the present resolution was not removed, and hence we have abstained from the resolution," Puri said.

The resolution also deplored "the failure of the Security Council to agree on measures to ensure the compliance of Syrian authorities with its decisions".

A day before the vote, a senior member of the Indian delegation here had said the draft had made demands for regime change, sanctions against Syria and calls for Assad to step down, which India was not in favour of.

He said Indian officials had "worked over time" to get these demands dropped from the resolution with Puri also holding several rounds of discussion with his Saudi and Qatari counterparts.

The final draft that was put before the General Assembly however still had references to calls for Assad to step down, which led India to abstain.

With the crisis in Syria constantly deteriorating, Puri said there is an urgent need for the international community to "close ranks" and send a united message to the Syrian parties to walk back from their military approach and resolve the crisis through an inclusive Syrian-led political process.

"There is no other way to bring about a sustained cessation of violence in all its forms by all parties. This is also the only way to end human rights violations and create an atmosphere for safe and unhindered delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance," he said.

With international envoy for Syria Kofi Annan announcing his resignation, Puri said India firmly believes that it is critical for the United Nations to remain strongly involved with the Syrian parties and other parties to work towards a way forward in Syria.

"We also believe that the leadership of Syria is for Syrians to decide through a democratic process," he said adding that the task of the international community, anchored in the UN, is to assist the Syrian parties in this process.

Puri said even though Annan has resigned, his efforts have put in place a set of valuable documents, which, if implemented, can facilitate a political resolution of the Syrian crisis without any further bloodshed.

Puri expressed concern that neither the Syrian government nor the rebel forces implemented its obligations under Joint Annan`s the six-point plan, which was endorsed by the UN Security Council.

With gross violations of human rights by all sides, the humanitarian situation has also become dire, and more than two million Syrians are said to be in need of humanitarian assistance.

"Unfortunately, the Syrian parties, instead of seriously commencing a Syrian-led political process, have pursued a military approach to realise their objectives," Puri added.

India also strongly condemned all violence and violations of human rights irrespective of its perpetrators. It also voiced condemnation in the "strongest terms possible" over the terrorist acts being committed in Syria.

India called upon all parties to dissociate themselves from terrorist groups and ensure that no space is provided for those groups.

Puri stressed that in order to assist the Syrian parties change their course and address the crisis through political dialogue, it is important that all parties, inside and outside Syria, fully abide by their obligations under UNSC resolutions.