The UN General Assembly is expected to vote on a resolution that criticises the Security Council for failing to take action on Syria.
The UN prepared on Friday to denounce Syria for unleashing tanks, artillery, helicopters and warplanes on the people of Aleppo and Damascus. The resolution will reportedly demand that the Assad regime keep its chemical and biological weapons warehoused and under strict control.
The anti-Syria resolution was expected to easily pass in the 193-member General Assembly after its Arab sponsors were forced to drop two key provisions in the original draft: a demand that President Bashar al-Assad resign, and a call for other nations to place sanctions on Syria over its civil war.
The resolution also calls on authorities in Damascus to cease human rights violations and withdraw troops from population centres.
As with all General Assembly resolutions, this one is non-binding and carries only symbolic power. But UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Security Council on Thursday that UN military observers in Aleppo are seeing “a considerable buildup of military means, where we have reason to believe that the main battle is about to start”.
The rebels have commandeered tanks, and are bringing them into combat as Syrian warplanes strike back. “Even in Damascus, I was there a few days ago, one could hear explosions regularly, interminably,” Ladsous told reporters after briefing the council.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged restraint on all sides, saying, “Both the government and the opposition forces continue to demonstrate their determination to rely on ever-increasing violence.”
The resolution that began to circulate on Monday reaffirmed its support for Kofi Annan, but he resigned on Thursday as the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria after his peace proposals failed.
The original draft had called for Assad to resign, highlighting an Arab League call on July 22 for “the Syrian president to step down from power, in order to facilitate a peaceful political transition”.
Russia, which has consistently supported Syria at the United Nations, said it would not back the resolution because it was unbalanced and would encourage rebels to keep fighting.
Vitaly Churkin, the Russian Ambassador, said on Thursday he could not support the General Assembly’s “extremely unbalanced and one-sided resolution”.
Russia and China opposed the draft, as expected. Both countries have cast a double-veto in the Security Council three times to kill resolutions that could have opened the door to sanctions on Syria, or even military intervention.