UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly scheduled a Thursday vote on an Arab-sponsored resolution strongly condemning human rights violations by the Syrian regime and backing an Arab League plan aimed at ending the 11-month conflict.
Assembly spokeswoman Nihal Saad said Wednesday that the vote will take place Thursday afternoon. There are no vetoes in the 193-member world body and U.N. diplomats said the resolution, which already has 60 co-sponsors, is virtually certain to be approved.
While General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding, they do reflect world opinion on major issues and supporters are hoping for a high "yes" vote to deliver a strong message to President Bashar Assad's regime.
The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private, said Arab countries on Tuesday rejected amendments to the nonbinding resolution proposed by Russia, which has been one of Syria's strongest backers.
The amendments, obtained by The Associated Press, are similar to the last-minute amendments Moscow proposed to a Security Council resolution aimed at stopping the brutal crackdown in Syria. When the resolution's sponsors rejected those amendments, Russia and China vetoed the resolution on Feb. 4.
In a letter to the assembly's 193 members, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin highlighted two amendments.
One called on "all sections of the Syrian opposition to dissociate themselves from armed groups engaged in acts of violence" and urged countries with influence to prevent continued violence by such groups. The other demanded that the withdrawal of all Syrian armed forces from cities and towns — which is called for in the Arab League plan — take place "in conjunction with the end of attacks by armed groups against state institutions and quarters of cities and towns."
Diplomats said the Arabs and their Western supporters couldn't accept these amendments because they seek to equate the Assad regime's crackdown on civilian protesters with the opposition that rose up to confront the violent attacks.
The proposed resolution does condemn "all violence, irrespective of where it comes from, and calls upon all parties in Syria, including armed groups, to immediately stop all violence or reprisals" as called for by the Arab League.
The General Assembly resolution was finalized by Arab nations a day after U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay address the world body and decried Syria's escalating crackdown on civilian protesters. She warned that the Security Council's recent failure to take action has emboldened Assad's government to launch an all-out assault to crush dissent.
The proposed resolution makes no specific reference to the Arab League's call Sunday for the Security Council to authorize a joint Arab-U.N. peacekeeping force for Syria.
It notes past Arab League decisions and makes five demands — that the Syrian government stop all violence, release all those detained during the unrest, withdraw all armed forces from cities and towns, guarantee peaceful demonstrations, and allow unhindered access for Arab League monitors and international media.
The draft resolution strongly supports the Arab League's decision to facilitate a Syrian-led transition to a democratic political system, including by starting "a serious political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition."
It asks the U.N. and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to support the Arab League's efforts to promote a peaceful solution to the crisis, including through appointment of a special envoy to Syria.
If approved, the resolution would be the second adopted by the General Assembly on Syria in two months.
On Dec. 19, the assembly voted 133-11 with 43 abstentions to condemn human rights violations by Assad's government and call for an immediate end to the violence.