After days of debate about how to respond to the Syrian government's bloody military assault on Hama, the 15-member U.N. Security Council has issued a statement condemning the "widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities," according to Bloomberg. The U.N. decision-making body expressed "grave concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria" and "profound regret at the death of many hundreds of people" (the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 1,629 civilians and 374 members of the security forces have been killed since pro-democracy protests began on March 15).
Those words were not arrived at easily. Russia and China, among others, long opposed any Security Council action out of fear that it would precipitate another Libya-style military intervention. And while today's statement was adopted unanimously, Lebanon--an ally of Syria's and the only Arab country on the council--dissociated itself from the text, a procedure that MSNBC says hasn't been used in 35 years. Several reports are also pointing out that the measure falls short of what the U.S. and its European allies were hoping for. Today's "presidential statement," Al Jazeera notes, isn't as "weighty" as a formal resolution, and makes no mention of a U.N. Human Rights Council investigation into the Syrian crackdown. The statement also issues threats and pleas to both sides of the conflict, warning that "those responsible for the violence should be held accountable" and urging "all sides to act with utmost restraint, and to refrain from reprisals, including attacks against state institutions." The council claims there's only one solution to the current crisis:
An inclusive and Syrian-led political process, with the aim of effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the population which will allow the full exercise of fundamental freedoms for its entire population, including that of expression and peaceful assembly.