In Multipolarity

By Alexander Mercouris, Russia Insider, Feb 29, 2016

A week ago, amidst Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions in Syria and talk of a Turkish invasion, the Russians proposed a resolution to the UN Security Council reaffirming Syria’s sovereignty. The resolution was blocked by the U.S. and its allies.

The fact the U.S. acted to block a UN Security Council Resolution that simply reaffirmed Syria’s sovereignty provoked widespread comment and incredulity. The reality is that it would have been politically impossible for the U.S. to allow a Resolution to pass the UN Security Council that is critical – however implicitly – of Turkey, which is the U.S.’s NATO ally.

The Russians undoubtedly knew this when they proposed the resolution. As I said last week on RT’s Crosstalk programme, in proposing the resolution the Russians were simply putting a marker down, in effect engaging in a diplomatic play as they worked towards the UN Security Council resolution they knew was coming.

That resolution duly came in the form of Resolution 2268, which was passed by the UN Security Council on 26th February 2016. Not only did the U.S. not veto this resolution, it supported it together with Russia.

The preamble to resolution 2268 (full text below) in effect does precisely what the rejected draft resolution Russia put forward to the UN Security Council sought to do. It reaffirms Syria’s sovereignty. To be precise, its exact words say that the UN Security Council reaffirms its “strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations…”

By proposing the previous draft resolution, the Russians were increasing the pressure on the U.S. in the negotiations that were under way. They were pointing out that it is the U.S.’s own ally Turkey which by its actions is destabilising the situation in Syria. They have also ensured that all parties now know that Russia considers the preamble of Resolution 2268 as confirming that the action Turkey has been taking in Syria is illegal under international law since it is prohibited by the Charter of the United Nations.

This whole story of the two Rrsolutions – the one which was rejected and the one which has passed – is in fact a further case study of the way in which the Russians conduct diplomacy. They rarely aim for a single breakthrough. Rather, what they do is take a series of incremental steps, each one of which brings them closer to their goal. Whilst each step may be minor by itself, as they accumulate they give Russia an overwhelming advantage. This is the strategy Russia has followed since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, and it is now bearing fruit.

In this case, throughout all the discussions in the UN Security Council over their draft resolution, the Russians were simultaneously negotiating with the U.S. the terms of the “cessation of hostilities” agreement, which Resolution 2268 has now put into effect. That makes the “cessation of hostilies” agreement – which is strictly speaking just an agreement between the US and Russia – legally binding on all the parties to the conflict (including Turkey) by making it a part of international law.

The previous draft Resolution the Russians proposed was not intended to be passed. It was intended to put them in a stronger position in their negotiations with the U.S., whilst enabling them to define the outcome of those negotiations in their favour.

This is the full text of UN Security Council Resolution 2268:

The Security Council,

Recalling its resolutions 2042 (2012), 2043 (2012), 2118 (2013), 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2170 (2014), 2175 (2014), 2178 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2199 (2015), 2235 (2015), 2249 (2015), 2253 (2015), 2254 (2015) and 2258 (2015), and Presidential Statements of 3 August 2011 (S/PRST/2011/16), 21 March 2012 (S/PRST/2012/6), 5 April 2012 (S/PRST/2012/10), 2 October 2013 (S/PRST/2013/15), 24 April 2015 (S/PRST/2015/10) and 17 August 2015 (S/PRST/2015/15),

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Recognizing the efforts of the Secretary-General in implementing resolution 2254 (2015) and noting, through his good offices and by his Special Envoy for Syria, the launch of the formal negotiations on a political transition process, consistent with paragraph 2 of resolution 2254 (2015), on 29 January 2016,

Commending the commitment of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to ensure a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition based on the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012 in its entirety and to immediately facilitate the full implementation of resolution 2254 (2015), and emphasizing the urgency for all parties in Syria to work diligently and constructively towards this goal,

Welcoming the ISSG statement of 11 February 2016, including the establishment of an ISSG humanitarian task force and an ISSG ceasefire task force,

1.   Endorses in full the Joint Statement of the United States and the Russian Federation, as Co-Chairs of the ISSG, on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria of 22 February 2016 and the Terms for the Cessation of Hostilities in Syria (hereafter referred to as ‘the Annex’) attached to the Statement, and demands the cessation of hostilities to begin at 00:00 (Damascus time) on 27 February 2016;

2.   Demands the full and immediate implementation of resolution 2254 (2015) to facilitate a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition, in accordance with the Geneva communiqué as set forth in the ISSG Statements, in order to end the conflict in Syria, and stresses again that the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria;

3.   Demands that all parties to whom the cessation of hostilities applies as set forth in the Annex (hereafter referred to as the “parties to the cessation of hostilities”) fulfil their commitments laid out in the Annex, and urges all Member States, especially ISSG members, to use their influence with the parties to the cessation of hostilities to ensure fulfilment of those commitments and to support efforts to create conditions for a durable and lasting ceasefire; “4.  Recognizes the efforts of the Russian Federation and the United States to reach understanding on the Terms of the Cessation of Hostilities, and acknowledges and welcomes that the forces of the Syrian Government and those supporting it, as communicated to the Russian Federation, and the Syrian armed opposition groups, as communicated to the Russian Federation or the United States, have accepted and committed to abide by the Terms of the Cessation of Hostilities, and as such are now parties to it;

5.   Reiterates its call on the parties to immediately allow humanitarian agencies rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria by most direct routes, allow immediate, humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need, in particular in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas, and immediately comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law as applicable;

6.   Expresses support for the ISSG initiative, coordinated through the ISSG humanitarian working group, to accelerate the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid, with the view towards the full, sustained, and unimpeded access throughout the country, including to Deir ez Zor, Foah, Kafraya, Az-Zabadani, Madaya/Bqin, Darayya, Madamiyet Elsham, Duma, East Harasta, Arbin, Zamalka, Kafr Batna, Ein Terma, Hammuria, Jisrein, Saqba, Zabadin, Yarmuk, eastern and western rural Aleppo, Azaz, Afrin, At Tall, Rastan, Talbiseh, Al Houle, Tier Malah/Al Gantho/Der Kabira, Al Waer, Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham;

7.   Reaffirms its support for a Syrian-led political process facilitated by the United Nations, requests the Secretary-General, through his good offices and the efforts of his Special Envoy for Syria, to resume the formal negotiations between the representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition, under the auspices of the United Nations, as soon as possible, and urges the representatives of the Syrian Government and the Syrian opposition to engage in good faith in these negotiations;

8.   Welcomes the cessation of hostilities as a step towards a lasting ceasefire and reaffirms the close linkage between a ceasefire and a parallel political process, pursuant to the 2012 Geneva communiqué, and that both initiatives should move ahead expeditiously as expressed in resolution 2254 (2015);

9.   Calls on all states to use their influence with the Government of Syria and the Syrian opposition to advance the peace process, confidence-building measures, including the early release of any arbitrarily detained persons, particularly women and children, and implementation of the cessation of hostilities;

10.  Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation of this resolution, including by drawing on information provided by the ISSG ceasefire taskforce, and on resolution 2254 (2015), within 15 days of the adoption of this resolution and every 30 days thereafter;

11.  Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

[End resolution]


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