BEIRUT: The UN Security Council passed another resolution against Syria on Wednesday, pressing it to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon and help demarcate the border between the two countries. UN Security Council Resolution 1680 was adopted despite divisions as China and Russia abstained from a 13-0 vote in the 15-member Security Council.
A source close to the world body said Russia's decision to refrain from using its veto might be seen as a veiled message to Syria.
Moscow's envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, had argued that Resolution 1680 was unwarranted and that a milder, nonbinding statement would have been better.
"A number of countries that voted for [the resolution] expressed very strong reservations about serious parts of the language of the resolution," Churkin said.
"We simply do not believe it is the best way to develop dialogue, to get the two sides to talk to each other through the Security Council," he added, arguing that Beirut and Damascus were already making progress on improving bilateral relations.
Qatar, the only Arab country currently holding one of the Security Council's 10 rotating seats, voted for the resolution.
In a telephone interview with The Daily Star, Qatar's ambassador to the UN, Nassir Abdel-Aziz al-Nasser, said the version that was eventually passed was designed to avoid unnecessarily antagonizing Damascus.
"We want to send a positive message to the Syrians to cooperate and try to [improve] relations with Lebanon without the interference of the UN Security Council," he said. "If we accuse and threaten the Syrians, they will not cooperate. It is a balanced resolution, and the Lebanese mission to the UN and the Lebanese government were happy with it."
Damascus' official reaction to the resolution came in the form of a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry which rejected the UN's "interference."
"Resolution 1680 marks a new precedent concerning international relations in terms of interfering in countries' internal affairs and the bilateral relations between them," the statement said. The ministry added that the resolution - drafted by France, the United States and Britain - "constitutes uncalled for pressure and provocation that complicates the situation."
The Arab League also criticized the resolution, complaining that it constituted interference in the sovereignty of the countries involved and their internal affairs.
The league's undersecretary general for political affairs, Ahmad Ben Hala, said that he and his colleagues were also looking into reports about Washington's interference in relations between countries.
The resolution states that the Security Council "strongly enc-ourages the government of Syria to respond positively to the request made by the government of Lebanon ... to delineate their common border ... [and] to establish full diplomatic relations."
Such steps would "contribute positively to the stability in the region," the resolution adds, and recognize Lebanon's "sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence."
The resolution also urged Damascus to take steps to prevent the flow of arms from Syrian territory to militias in Lebanon, and it called on "all concerned states and parties" to cooperate with the Lebanese government and the UN in fully implementing Resolution 1559 of 2004.
The U.S. envoy to the UN, John Bolton, said that language referred to Iran and Hizbullah, as well as to Syria. He said the resolution "makes clear that the burden is on Syria to respond to Lebanon's request for border delineation and the full exchange of diplomatic relations."
"It clearly says to Syria that it needs to do more to stop the flow of weapons across the Syrian-Lebanese border and ... the disarming of all militias inside Lebanon is an important priority," he added.
Churkin acknowledged the measure contained "a veiled reference to Iran" but said it also referred to "other players involved" in Lebanon.
Nassir identified Israel as one of those "other players" and said the draft should have faulted the Jewish state for its frequent military flights over Lebanese territory.
UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen told French publication La Croix that Lebanese Premier Fouad Siniora had yet to receive "a positive official answer from Syria on the matter of establishing diplomatic ties between both countries." - With agencies