EU urges UN Chapter VII action, opens military option
By Lénaïc Vaudin d’Imécourt | Friday 29 June 2012
European Union leaders are urging the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to adopt new sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime under Chapter VII of its charter, opening up the option of a military intervention.
“The European Council called for united action by the UN Security Council to add more robust and effective pressure, including the adoption of comprehensive sanctions under Chapter VII,” the conclusions read.
Chapter VII provides for both military and non-military responses to “any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression”. The decision comes after Turkey reported the shooting down by Syrian forces of one of its warplanes over international waters. Ankara did not respond to the move, which represented “an act of aggression,” according to officials from both Turkey and the EU. The EU commended Turkey for its “measured and responsible initial reaction”. Ankara, however, warned Damascus that they would retaliate should Syria strike again.
The non-military options foreseen in Chapter VII include “complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations” (Article 41). The charter also allows for the use of “armed forces” in case the non-military measures prove to be “inadequate” in order to “maintain or restore international peace and security” (Article 42).
If the UNSC allows sanctions to be implemented under Chapter VII, “members shall hold immediately available national air force contingents for combined international enforcement action” to “enable the United Nations to take urgent military measures” (Article 45).
The EU has adopted 16 rounds of sanctions against Damascus since the beginning of the regime’s crackdown almost a year and a half ago. But the measures, which include asset freezes and travel bans on 129 individuals and 49 entities, as well as a ban on trade in luxury goods and export bans on equipment and technologies that could be used for repression against the civilian population, have not been able to halt the violence in the country. Some 16,000 people have been killed in the last 16 months in Syria, according to recent reports.
However, despite the call for the use of Chapter VII, member states are not yet requesting military intervention in Syria, favouring a diplomatic solution. A no-fly zone is one of the options currently under consideration, EU sources have said.
The implementation of sanctions under said chapter would require unanimous approval of a resolution by UNSC members. To date, China and Russia have vetoed two strong resolutions condemning the Syrian regime.
In its sixteenth round of sanctions, adopted on 25 June, the EU added one individual and six entities to the list of those targeted by asset freezes and visa bans.
Action Group for Syria
High Representative Catherine Ashton will attend the Action Group for Syria meeting in Geneva, on 30 June, hosted by Kofi Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy. During the ministerial meeting, Annan will present plans for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside and for a transitional government to be set up in Damascus. An EU source told
Europoliticsthat the plan would for the first time suggest that Syria’s interim “government of unity” should be made up of members of the opposition as well as members of the current regime. It could include some of the regime’s vice-ministers, the diplomat noted. The same source said that Russia – which is also invited to the meeting as a permanent member of the UN Security Council – appeared to be in favour of Annan’s transition plan at first, but it has now “pedalled backwards”. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as Turkey, Iraq and representatives of the Arab League were invited to the Geneva meeting.