As street battles rage at the gates of Damascus, a diplomatic battle over Syria is looming at the UN.
President Assad’s forces have fought back against rebels advancing on the capital. But he is under pressure to leave power in an Arab League plan to be discussed by the UN Security Council. The US, Britain and France want it swiftly endorsed.
“We believe that the Security Council should not permit the Assad regime to assault the Syrian people while it rejects the Arab League’s proposal for a political solution,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. “We do support the Arab League’s role in this process and governments that act to prop up Assad’s brutal regime will find themselves in a small minority and criticised for abetting further human rights violations.”
The message seems aimed at President Assad’s ally Moscow, which is poised to veto a draft UN resolution calling for a political transition.
With Russia’s presidential poll ahead, some claim that Vladimir Putin is using support for Syria and refusal of Western-driven sanctions to boost his Kremlin bid.
The prime minister’s position is weaker than at any other time in which he has participated personally in an election campaign, according to political analyst Maria Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Centre. And far from ignoring an anti-American mood in Russian society, she says that he has played it up throughout his leadership.
As Moscow launches its own mediation drive, the Arab League’s observer mission remains suspended and the death toll in Syria continues to rise.