It’s difficult to know what to make of the international climate surrounding Syria right now.
In some ways, the last few months have been full of breakthroughs. But these have been followed quickly by disappointments as the international community attempts to halt the violence.
The Arab League’s plan and its observer mission has finished and the draft resolutions placed before the UN Security Council have been vetoed by Russia and China, effectively halting any UN any action to end the violence in Syria.
The extreme levels of violence perpetrated on the Syrian people combined with the UN Security Council's inability to issue anything more than a Presidential statement has left the world asking this: what is this international watchdog actually able to achieve?
The Security Council has teeth, but the politicians that make up the council need the will to sharpen them. Russia and China, two of five permanent members with veto powers, have blunted the teeth of the Security Council all but quashing its ability to end the violence.
These permanent members of the Security Council have hidden behind the traditional stance of not interfering with the affairs of another state. Check out this interview on ABC’s Lateline with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for more on Russia’s position.
Interestingly, what hasn’t been mentioned by the Russian or Chinese authorities is their major oil concessions in Syria. And that Russia relies on Syria for ten percent of its total arms sales For more, see page three of this Amnesty report (PDF 250 kb).
It's a stretch of the imagination to believe that Russia simply feels Syria is none of its business, given the billions of dollars invested in the country. (This cartoon in The Economist sums up this point.)
There is now a real risk that the conflict in Syria will turn into full blown civil war, and more people will die at the hands of Syria’s security forces. With more and more calls for activists in Syria to defend themselves from the atrocities without international action, the situation is only likely to get worse before it gets better. It is now Russia and China's responsibility, having blocked international action, to develop a plan to end the violence that has beset the country. Russia has now suggested informal talks with Syria in Moscow
We know that the Syrian authorities are becoming more and more sensitive to international pressure from their recent condemnation of Amnesty and Human Rights Watch. We’ll keep you up to date on the next steps we can take to ratchet up the pressure on the Syrian regime and hopefully find a way to end the human suffering in Syria.