Syria Forces Kill 17 as Europe, Russia Move Toward UN Accord


Syrian security forces killed at least 17 protesters yesterday as Europeans in the United Nations Security Council moved toward agreement with Russia and China on a resolution pressing Syria to halt the violence.

The killings took place yesterday in the central governorate of Homs, the northern province of Idlib and southern area of Daraa, part of a crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government that began seven months ago, Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said by phone today.

Envoys from Britain, France, Germany and Portugal said late yesterday that they would circulate a new draft resolution that takes into account Russia’s concerns about their threat to impose sanctions on Syria’s government.

“I think we are very close,” Ambassador Baso Sangqu of South Africa, a Security Council member, said after a two-hour meeting in New York yesterday. “I think something will emerge.”

The protests in Syria are part of the wave of unrest across the Middle East and North Africa that unseated governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Assad’s crackdown has left more than 3,600 civilians dead, according to Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria. About 30,000 people have been detained and 13,000 are still being held, according to Qurabi and Merhi.

Clashes With Defectors

There are reports in the last three days of clashes between security forces and Syrians who have defected from them, Merhi said. Al Arabiya television broadcast video today of army defectors saying they had attacked and killed agents of the government and freed 27 children and their teacher. Merhi said he could not verify if the statements were true.

At the UN, Sangqu said the new draft won’t impose sanctions automatically, allowing for some flexibility before they are triggered. European countries abandoned a measure circulated last month that would have imposed an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze, replacing it on Sept. 27 with a text that “expresses determination” to impose sanctions in the event the violence continues.

“I think it can be done,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said of a possible agreement. The Security Council is due to meet again today, with a vote possible as early as tomorrow.

The U.S., unhappy with the willingness of the Europeans to soften the proposed resolution, wants “a resolution with teeth” that will make it “absolutely clear to the Assad regime that the violence has to end,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said yesterday in Washington.

“This is a regime that remains determined to control every significant aspect of political life in Syria,” Simon Collis, the U.K. ambassador to Syria, said in a blog he began this week. “It is used to power. And it will do anything to keep it.”