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UN, Arab League to work more closely over Syria

Despite taking different views when it comes to conflicts Syria as well as the rest of the Middle East, the United Nations Security Council and Arab League promised to improve cooperation.

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (R) and the League of Arab States' Secretary General Nabil Elaraby

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (R) and the League of Arab States' Secretary General Nabil Elaraby

The UN Security Council met Wednesday (26.09.2012) to discuss an initiative led German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. The international community needs to find a common response to the conflict in Syria, he said.

With the ongoing civil war in Syria and other revolts and uprisings across the Middle East, the five permanent and 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council, which includes Germany, are reaching their limits. They are yet to reach a resolution that would put Syrian President Bashar Assad under pressure.

The Security Council failed to achieve any of its objectives because of disagreement among its five permanent members, said Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby. China and Russia's have used their veto powers three times to block resolutions that could have led sanctions against Syria.

"Those resolutions have remained dead letter[s].They are not being implemented. The serial killing and bloodshed, destruction, continue unabated," Elaraby said.

The UN-Arab League Special Representative on Syria will need the support of the Security Council to be successful in his mission, he noted at the meeting.

Bomb exploding in Damascus

The civil war has long since reached the Syrian capital, Damascus

No pressure on Syria

Members of the Security Council steered clear of pointing fingers at China and Russia, though French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was critical of the Security Council's ambivalent position

"None of us believe in the future of Assad's regime when the cameras are off," he said before adding that exactly how Assad would leave power without claiming further victims remained an open question.

Despite statements from all 15 Council members on the civil war in Syria, there were no new proposals. US Secretary of State called for the Security Council to deal with Syria once again, while China and Russia maintained their positions not to interfere with the internal affairs of a country. Both countries have close ties with the Assad regime.

Children at a Save the Children camp in Syria

The conflict is affecting neighboring countries as thousands flee to Turkey and Jordan

A lack of follow through

For the Arab League, the Palestinian question remains a key issue on which the Security Council has shown no credibility.

The Security Council has had more than 200 resolutions on this issue, but none was implemented, Elaraby said, noting that a good example is the continued construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

"We want the Security Council to think about how it deals with [some issues]. Double standards are not acceptable," he added.

He said he believes it would be a mistake to leave the negotiations to the Middle East Quartet, which is made up of the UN, the United States, the European Union and Russia. The Security Council needs to commit to the rights of the Palestinians and not only manage the conflict, he said. Most of the other members backed his stance.

The Middle East conflict shows that the structure of the UN Security Council needs to be reformed, said South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. Permanent members Russia, China, France, the United States and Great Britain have too much power, while African and Arab countries are represented by non-permanent members with no veto rights. However, there is yet to be a majority in the UN that supports reforming the Security Council.

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