NEW YORK — Russia vowed on Thursday to oppose an expected push by the Syrian opposition to take over Syria’s seat at the United Nations and predicted that any Syrian National Coalition bid at the world body would fail.
Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, made the comment to reporters after Moscow criticised the Arab League for giving Syria’s seat to the opposition at a league summit. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Arab League had abandoned hope for a peaceful end to Syria’s 2-year civil war.
Free Syrian Army fighters on a pick-up truck flash victory sign in Sidi Meqdad area in Damascus. — Reuters
“We’ll oppose it very strongly,” Churkin said in response to a question about a likely Syrian opposition move in New York to follow its success in gaining Arab League recognition. “But I don’t think it’s going to happen because ... most of the members of the United Nations are responsible members ... that value this institution,” he said. “I think they understand that if something of this sort were to happen it would really undercut the standing of the United Nations.”
“You do not simply seat opposition groups who have gone through no proper process of legitimisation,” he said. “We need to have legitimate authorities.”
Several Security Council diplomats said the Syrian National Coalition, which is establishing liaison offices in New York and Washington, will make a play for Syria’s UN seat. The coalition’s US offices are headed by Najib Ghadbian, a professor of political science at the University of Arkansas. Ghadbian said it would make sense for the opposition to have Syria’s UN seat.
“The Assad regime is not a legitimate government,” Ghadbian said in a statement. “It lost the legitimacy to represent Syria the day it began its armed campaign against the Syrian people, which has resulted in death, destruction, and a humanitarian catastrophe that requires immediate attention from the international community.”
One senior Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity that the opposition may push for the Syrian UN seat in September when world leaders gather at the United Nations for the annual high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly.
An Arab diplomat, however, said a move to transfer the Syrian UN seat to the opposition could come much sooner. The Syrian National Coalition, which is recognised by the Arab League as the sole representative for Syria, opened its first embassy on Wednesday in Qatar in a diplomatic blow to President Bashar Al Assad.
Russia is a member of the 9-nation UN credentials committee, as is the United States. That committee reviews requests to accredit diplomats to the UN and makes recommendations to the General Assembly.