IN an attempt to avoid a veto, backers of the proposed United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria excluded threats of economic sanctions and included assurances that nothing in the resolution authorised military action.
But this was not enough to hold back Russia and China from casting a double veto on Saturday. To Moscow, the resolution was "unbalanced" because it contained measures against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, but nothing against the armed opposition. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "Unless you do it both ways, you are taking sides in a civil war."
Whether the situation in Syria has deteriorated into civil war is a matter of opinion. But we can all agree with the other 13 council members that voted to condemn "all violence, irrespective of where it comes from" and demand that "all parties in Syria, including armed groups, immediately stop all violence or reprisals". As the Arab League's monitoring mission's report contained details of attacks by rebel fighters, this certainly reflects the realities on the ground.
Unfortunately, this even-handed approach is reflected neither in the thrust of the resolution nor in the position on Syria. Take for instance, the events in the city of Homs on Friday. Early accounts of the casualties from opposition sources put the figure above 200. It has since been revised downwards. Naturally, the Syrian government gives a completely different account. What is clear is that there is a well-organised armed opposition in the city. Yet, despite the difficulty of verifying the uncorroborated and conflicting reports, what happened in Homs has, unfortunately, been billed as another case of a brutal, oppressive regime slaughtering its own people.
As this inevitably results in calls for strong action to stop the violence, there is a need to avoid the kind of knee-jerk reaction that leads to military meddling. Simply put, the internal affairs of Syria are nobody else's business. The only honourable exception is when outsiders can become honest brokers. As Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said in October last year, Malaysia is against any foreign military intervention to end the conflict in Syria. To this end, it is hoped that Bashar will expedite reforms and speed up the dialogue to find a political, non-violent solution to the impasse.