But, in Moscow, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, stood firm, warning that such a resolution would put Syria on the “path to civil war.”
“The Arab League has come to the council seeking support of the international community for a negotiated, peaceful political solution to this crisis and a responsible, democratic transition in Syria,” Clinton told the council as Syria’s U.N. envoy listened on. “We all have a choice: Stand with the people of Syria and the region, or become complicit in the continuing violence there.”
The high-level diplomatic debate played out as violence escalated in Syria, with nearly 6,000 people dead, and fighting between Syrian armed forces the insurgent Syria Free Army intensifying.
“The killing machine is still at work,” Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani, who has led the Arab effort to isolate and sanction Assad, said at the United Nations.
The debate prompted an outcry from Syria’s U.N. ambassador, who accused the Arab League of betraying the cause of Arab nationalism by promoting an “unjust” political plan and soliciting support from a U.N. security body that has adopted “hundreds of votes against Arab causes.”
The Security Council remains deadlocked in negotiations on a Western- and Arab-backed draft resolution condemning Syria’s violent suppression of protesters and outlining a political road map that would lead to presidential and parliamentary elections in Syria.
Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vitaly I. Churkin, insisted that the Security Council “cannot impose the parameters for an internal political settlement,” proposing that Moscow host political talks between the Syrian government and the opposition.
But there was little chance that such a plan could succeed. Burhan Ghalioun, leader of the Syrian National Council, the main opposition group, has ruled out talks with the government until Assad agrees to step down.
U.S. and European officials, meanwhile, have tried to persuade Moscow to participate in a plan to ease Assad from power, arguing that it is only a matter of time before his government falls and Russia loses its influence in the region.
Syria is an important customer for Russian armaments and hosts a recently reopened Russian naval supply base at Tartus. But analysts say Russia’s reluctance to abandon Assad may have more to do with pride than economic or strategic interests.