But the pact would for the first time place the Security Council, and possibly Russia, squarely behind an Arab League plan outlining a timetable for a transfer of power to a government of national unity, and ultimately new parliamentary and presidential elections. And it would mark the first time since the violence began that the council has adopted a binding resolution condemning Syria’s conduct.
Security Council diplomats said they are confident that they have fashioned the broad parameters of a possible deal that would end months of inaction on Syria by the council. But they cautioned that Russia has yet to agree to support an unambiguous endorsement of the Arab League political plan, and that the entire proposal could unravel if it doesn’t.
Western and Arab sponsors planned to continue pressing their case for a resolution on Thursday night. Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, threatened to veto the measure if it was brought to a vote Friday, saying his government needed more time to negotiate the terms of the resolution, said two council diplomats who were in a closed-door session.
The Arab League secretary general, Nabil Elaraby, and the chairman of the league’s council of ministers, Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani, have appealed to the Security Council to lend its weight to a plan calling for the beginning of talks between the Syrian government and opposition, leading to the establishment of a unity government within two months. Under the plan, Assad would be required to grant one of his deputies authority to cooperate with the united government, which would be led by an individual selected by rival parties.
Elaraby sought to reassure Russia that the resolution is not intended to justify military action, to sanction Syria or to force Assad to leave power.
The Russians “don’t want the Arab peace plan, which says the president delegates power to the vice president,” he said in an interview with CNN. “We didn’t ask that the president should step down, but only to delegate powers to the vice president.”
But Elaraby said that Russian support for even a new, watered-down resolution would “put pressure” on the regime and drive home that Moscow won’t stand up for it indefinitely.
Russia, which is backed by China, has insisted that the Arab League and the Security Council lack the right to impose a “pre-cooked” political settlement on Syria, saying any plan for a transition needs to be negotiated by the Syrian government and the opposition. Churkin has insisted that his government would block any resolution that was designed to bring about regime change in Syria. It has offered to host talks in Moscow.