Friday 30 November 2012

"Friends of Syria" embrace opposition’s Coalition

Representatives of more than 60 countries meeting in Tokyo welcomed Friday the formation of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
The "Friends of Syria" also “urged other opposition factions to join the Coalition” and called on members of “the armed forces and the financial and business community to distance themselves from the regime and support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.“
At a meeting in the Japanese capital, the group's fifth since its inception, they called for a full oil embargo on Syria.
In its closing statement, “The Group reiterated its call on all states to impose an embargo on Syrian petroleum products and a ban on the provision of insurance and reinsurance for shipments of Syrian petroleum products.”
Presently, the United States bans the import of Syrian oil and gas, but the European Union does not.
Following is the full text of the group’s closing statement carried by PanOrient News:

1. The Friends of the Syrian People International Working Group on Sanctions (‘the Group’) held its fifth meeting in Tokyo, Japan, on 30 November 2012. Under the mandate given by the Ministerial meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People in Istanbul on 1 April, the meeting built upon and endorsed the outcomes of the meetings held by the Group in Paris on 17 April, in Washington, D.C. on 6 June, in Doha on 19 July, and in The Hague on 20 September. Japan, Morocco, and EEAS (European External Action Service) co-chaired the meeting. On behalf of the host government, Mr. Koichiro Gemba, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, delivered the opening address. 63 countries as well as the League of Arab States, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the European Union were represented at the meeting. Also present was the Syrian Economic Task Force, who attended on behalf of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces. The Group welcomed the participation of four new countries, including three from Asia, further underlining the international community’s growing determination to bring about an end to the repression and a political solution to the crisis in Syria as soon as possible.
2. Gravely alarmed by the escalation of violence in Syria, and the spillover of the crisis into the entire region, the Group condemned in the strongest terms the incessant killings, bombings of residential areas, and destruction as well as the systematic and gross violation of human rights in Syria, and reiterated its call for the Syrian regime, in the first place, to stop the violence. It also called upon those countries, groups and individuals that are actively supporting the Syrian regime’s ruthless efforts to suppress the political aspirations of the Syrian people to cease their support.
3. The Group deplored the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria, called upon the Syrian regime to grant full and unimpeded access for all affected civilians to humanitarian assistance, and urged the international community to respond to appeals by the United Nations and its humanitarian partners and provide urgent financial support to address the growing humanitarian needs of the Syrian population, both for the civilians in Syria affected by the conflict and for Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, which are bearing the major burden in this regard.
4. The Group is committed to the sovereignty, independence, national unity and territorial integrity of Syria. The Group reaffirmed its unwavering support for the rightful and legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for a peaceful, democratic, pluralistic, and inclusive society, free of any sectarianism or discrimination on any grounds, and committed to stand by them until their aspirations are fulfilled. In this regard, the Group expressed its full support for Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi, for his assiduous efforts to bring about an end to the conflict and achieve a peaceful transition to building the new Syria in a swift manner. In this respect, the Group noted that the Arab League has urged the Security Council to pass a resolution pertaining to declare an immediate cease-fire.
5. The Group welcomed the results of the Doha meetings on 11 November 2012 and the formation of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, encouraged them to prepare for a prompt, peaceful, and inclusive transition, and urged other opposition factions to join the Coalition so as to create an inclusive and all embracing body. It looks forward to working with this newly designed opposition umbrella organization in order to enhance the effectiveness of the restrictive measures.
6. While the responsibility for the violence lies with the Syrian regime, the Group condemned all terrorist acts in Syria, which undermine the objectives of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces and further perpetuate the conflict in Syria.
7. The Group called on all members of the international community, especially members of the United Nations Security Council, to take swift, responsible and resolute action in solidarity with the Syrian people and to increase pressure on the Syrian regime by implementing and enforcing measures to deny it access to the resources needed for its violent campaign against its own population.
8. The Group welcomed the targeted and coordinated sanctions implemented by Group member countries and organizations to increase pressure on the Syrian regime and isolate it from the international community as a means of ending the repression in Syria. These measures have helped to hamper the ability of the Syrian regime to crack down on the Syrian people, inter alia, by cutting off major sources of income previously derived from the export of oil and other goods, by freezing the assets of those involved in or supporting the repression of the Syrian people, and by exercising vigilance to prevent the transfer of weapons and related goods to Syria. The Group recognized that a continued concerted multinational effort is necessary to further isolate the Syrian regime and deprive it of the financial resources and support needed to sustain its campaign of violent repression of the legitimate political aspirations of the Syrian people.
9. The Group renewed its commitment to improve the implementation and the enforcement of those sanctions already in place and to exercise enhanced vigilance to prevent evasion of sanctions by the Syrian regime, including by seeking alternative markets for its crude oil, and urged international partners not to purchase Syrian oil and gas products. The Group reiterated its resolve to ensure that sanctions against the Syrian regime and its affiliates are effectively implemented to hasten the end of the regime’s oppression of the Syrian people. In this regard, the Group commended the efforts of Syria’s neighbors to impose sanctions against the Syrian regime despite adverse effects on their own economy and called for other countries, including those neighbors of Syria that have not implemented restrictive measures, to impose similar sanctions.
10. With a view to reinforcing the effectiveness of current sanctions and increasing pressure upon the Syrian regime, the Group called on all states to take steps, in their own capacity, by imposing, at a minimum, an asset freeze on senior Syrian regime officials involved in the repression, as well as an asset freeze on, and restrictions on transactions with, major banks tied with the Syrian regime such as the Central Bank of Syria, the Commercial Bank of Syria and the Syrian International Islamic Bank, in order to prevent circumventing measures adopted by the Syrian regime.
11. The Group reiterated its call on all states to impose an embargo on Syrian petroleum products and a ban on the provision of insurance and reinsurance for shipments of Syrian petroleum products. The Group also reiterated its call on all states to impose a ban on arm shipments and military technical assistance to Syria and on the provision of insurance and reinsurance for third country arms shipments toward Syria.
12. The Group called on the international financial and business communities to diligently comply with ongoing and forthcoming measures against the Syrian regime. The Group strongly encouraged institutions and enterprises in those countries that have not joined the international sanctions regime to refrain from engaging in business with entities affiliated with those responsible for and contributing to the violence in Syria, or risk being exposed to a severe reputational risk.
13. The Group emphasized that sanctions do not target the civilian population of Syria but are aimed at the Syrian regime and its supporters. Expressing its solidarity with the Syrian people, the Group steadfastly maintained that the current and forthcoming measures are carefully targeted, including by reinforcing well-designed exceptions for humanitarian transactions satisfying the needs of the civilian population in Syria, so that innocent citizens of Syria do not suffer unjustly and unintentionally from these measures. The Group underlined that the economic hardship faced by the Syrian people is the consequence of the policies and actions of the Syrian regime.
14. The Group commended the courage shown by those who have defected from the Syrian regime and committed to promptly lift sanctions against them, as appropriate. The Group called on all those working for the Syrian regime, the armed forces and the financial and business community to distance themselves from the regime and support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, or face further isolation from the international community and the international economic and financial system.
15. The Group agreed that there is an increasing need for the Syrians and the whole international community to prepare for the future reconstruction of Syria. In this regard, the Group called upon members to be prepared to swiftly review and lift sanctions including in key economic sectors, where appropriate, in a coordinated manner when a credible and irreversible transition process moves forward, in order to eliminate obstacles to the recovery and development of the Syrian economy and facilitate efforts to rebuild the country, including through the recovery and return of assets misappropriated by the Syrian regime and its affiliates.
16. The Group also stressed that, for a swift, peaceful, and inclusive transition and successful reconstruction, the Working Groups on Sanctions and on Economic Recovery and Development should continue to progress in tandem and expressed its will to maintain close coordination between the two Working Groups.
17. The Group committed to continue to share information on measures taken to increase the pressure on the Syrian regime. Recalling the call by the Group to establish ways to ensure continued coordination in between meetings, it thanked the Netherlands and the United States for publicizing the current sanctions regimes and the list of competent authorities, which will be updated as needed.
18. The International Working Group on Sanctions will hold its sixth meeting in Bulgaria in February 2013.

Palestine wins upgraded UN status by a mile

Electronic screen lights up with the final vote and Ban Ki-moon congratulates Mahmoud Abbas

In an extraordinary lineup of international support, the UN General Assembly voted overnight by a more than two-thirds majority to recognize the State of Palestine within the 1967 borders, a move vehemently opposed by Israel and the United States.
The 193-member world body approved the resolution upgrading Palestine’s status to a nonmember observer state at the United Nations late Thursday by a vote of 138 in favor to 9 against, with 41 abstentions.
The vote was a victory decades in the making for the Palestinians after years of occupation and violence. It was a sharp rebuke for Israel and the United States.
The vote grants Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas an overwhelming international endorsement for his key position: establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
A Palestinian flag was quickly unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly, behind the Palestinian delegation, after an electronic screen lit up with the final vote.
With its newly enhanced status, the Palestinians can now gain access to UN agencies and international bodies, most significantly the International Criminal Court, which could become a springboard for going after Israel for alleged war crimes or its ongoing settlement building on war-won land.
Abbas told the assembly the vote was the "last chance to save the two-state solution" with Israel.
Israel's envoy to the UN said the bid pushed peace process "backwards," while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote "unfortunate and counter-productive.”
"Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states [one Arab, the other Jewish] and became the birth certificate for Israel," Abbas said shortly before the vote in New York.
"The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine," he said.
Joining Israel and the United States in voting “no” were Canada, Czech Republic, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama.
Of the “Big Five” permanent members of UN Security Council, three voted in favor (China, France and Russia), one abstained (UK) and the fifth voted against (U.S.).
The vote highlighted the lack of unity as well among the 27 member states of the European Union. But it also marked a drain in sympathy for Israel in Europe.
Just one EU country -- the Czech Republic -- voted against Palestine upgrading its status within the world body.
Fourteen others -- Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Sweden -- voted in favor (as did non-EU members Norway and Switzerland).
The remaining 12 EU members -- notably Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and United Kingdom -- abstained.
The vote grants the Palestinians the same status at the UN as the Vatican, and they will keep their seat next to the Holy See in the General Assembly chamber.
The Holy See promptly issued a communiqué after the vote stating in part: “Considering the outcome of today’s vote of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and to encourage the International Community, and in particular the Parties directly concerned, towards concrete action in view of the aforementioned objectives, the Holy See welcomes with favor the decision of the General Assembly by which Palestine has become a Non-member Observer State of the United Nations.
“It is a propitious occasion to recall also the common position that the Holy See and the Palestinian Liberation Organization expressed in the Basic Agreement of 15 February 2000, intended to support the recognition of an internationally-guaranteed special statute for the City of Jerusalem, and aimed, in particular, to safeguarding the freedom of religion and of conscience, the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem as a Holy City, respect for and freedom of access to its Holy Places.”

Thursday 29 November 2012

Egypt said staring down the barrel of a gun

Two Egyptians – one a media superstar, the other a seasoned diplomat – believe their country is trending towards disaster.
Egyptian media superstar and talk show host Imad Adeeb, writing for the leading Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat, gives his reasons as follows:
This time, the rules of play in Egypt will be totally different than in the past.
This time, the president is duly elected, civilian and legitimate.
This time, if the army is called upon, it will answer the call only if it receives written guarantees that it won’t be ordered back to barracks.
This time, police won’t have rules of engagement and police chiefs don’t wish to stand trial again for killing protesters.
This time, not all the “street” is against the regime. There is a sharp divide between a street of loyalist demonstrators and a street of opposition protesters.
This time, political funding from abroad is a sign of frightening external links.
This time, there are 15 million firearms smuggled in from Libya and Sudan. More are turned out by local workshops.
This time, the stockpiling of firearms by numerous political groups is mushrooming.
This time, the Copts genuinely fear for their personal safety.
This time, there is a lack of interest among the protagonists in dialogue, negotiation or a settlement.
This time, the Judiciary is not an independent branch of power. It is party to the dispute.
This time, the president feels through his inner circle that many forces target him. He thus senses a conspiratorial and menacing atmosphere.
This time, the youths won’t hurl stones in the streets, but Molotov cocktails instead. They might even resort to primitive or automatic firearms.
This time, the famished, the paupers and the slum dwellers will come out, not to protest in Tahrir Square, but to appropriate anything or everything on Egyptian soil.
This time, American or regional intervention won’t ward off the disaster.
This time, only prayer will help.
Talking anonymously, the seasoned diplomat tells political analyst Sarkis Naoum, writing for the independent Beirut daily an-Nahar:
1. Egypt has a president, but he is inexperienced.
2. Egypt has innumerable problems that need to be addressed. They include the remnants of the Mubarak regime’s now-defunct National Party. They are the enforcers the party created and used before mutating into a quasi-independent force-for-hire.
3. Egypt has tens of millions of its citizens living either on the poverty threshold or under the poverty line.
4. Egypt has Islamists, chiefly Muslim Brothers, and Salafists.
5. Egypt is in transition. Apart from issues like Sharia jurisprudence and religion being the sole source for legislation, Arabs outside Egypt know little about Egypt’s constitutional impasse. What they don’t know is alarming, such as reducing the marriageable age for girls down to nine years.
6. The problem of sexual harassment on Egyptian streets is getting out of control. Females wearing a headscarf, veil or full hijab are being targeted now.
7. President Mohamed Morsi got rid of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and its tutelage. Who gave him internal or external cover for the move, the United States?
8. Morsi sent troops to Sinai to confront extremist Jihadists and Salafis after they attacked Egyptian security forces there. Israel helped him secure Sinai with intelligence aid, but he never said so publicly.
9. Did the election of Muslim Brother Morsi give the nod to the entire Muslim Brotherhood to rule Egypt, its people and its resources?
10. Whether Morsi reached the helm alone or with all the Muslim Brothers, they have to address Egypt’s problems and build the state, its economy, its security and its tourism, considering that tourism without “sex” does not exist in the world. They have to tackle the problems of terrorists, Salafists, democrats and thugs.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

The battle for Damascus is approaching

This video posted on the Internet yesterday shows the sort of heavy
weaponry commandeered by FSA fighters after capturing a military
base outside Deir Salman village in the Damascus Ghota, a green
agricultural belt surrounding the capital in the south and east

Syria’s 20-month conflict is slowly but surely homing in on the capital.
Rebel strikes against military bases across Syria have exposed President Bashar al-Assad's weakening grip in the north and east of the country and left his power base in Damascus vulnerable to the increasingly potent opposition forces.
Rebel fighters have taken at least five army and air installations in the last 10 days.
Rebels also have had a number of recent successes in shooting down Syrian military aircraft, a possible sign that they have been able to commandeer heavier weaponry after taking over government military bases.
Two helicopters were shot down in Aleppo province yesterday. A video of one of the attacks posted online shows a surface-to-air missile slamming into a helicopter in a ball of orange flame.
The two main rebel gains of the last fortnight were the huge 46th Division army base, which sprawls over several square kilometers west of Aleppo, and the Mayadeen base in Deir al-Zor, which left rebels controlling 120 kilometers of the Euphrates river north of the Iraqi border.
Around the capital itself, rebels have captured an air defense installation in the south of Damascus and a helicopter base situated among the eastern farmlands and towns, which have been an opposition stronghold for months.
To the southwest the army has been bombarding rebels in the suburb of Daraya, determined to prevent them from holding another gateway into the capital.
"There is a sense that the flames are licking at the door,” a diplomat in Damascus told Reuters.
While the regime has regularly claimed to be launching its final crackdown on the rebellion in Damascus province, such announcements have rarely borne fruit.
"If it feels the pressure build up further, the regime might turn into a militia, and that would be the start of a process of disintegration in Syria," analyst Karim Bitar of the French Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), tells AFP.
"The atmosphere and characteristics of the battle for Aleppo will likely be reproduced in Damascus" if all-out war breaks out there, he added.
"The battle for Damascus will likely be even deadlier than Aleppo, and it might change the rules of the game. It will really be an existential battle for the regime, and such battles tend to give way to all kinds of madness and excess," said Bitar.
"If the rebels make real progress around the capital, it could be the beginning of the end for Assad," the analyst said.
"But the regime has not said its last word, and the coming weeks are full of danger."
An activist in the Damascus suburb of Jobar tells today’s Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat by Skype, “The regime has effectively collapsed. It only controls the peripheries of neighborhoods. Everyone here is waiting for Zero Hour, hoping it will pass well.”
The activist says “there are more than 10,000 (Free Syrian Army) fighters in the city” but he is uneasy about the anticipated backlash from the Fourth Armored Division commanded by Maher Assad, the president’s brother.
The Fourth Armored Division, which comes next in importance to the Republican Guard that Maher Assad commands as well, “won’t cede Damascus, even when the regime falls. They will destroy it by random shelling.”
Military analysts consider the Division as the best trained and best equipped of the Syrian Army. It is drawn mostly from members of the same Alawite minority sect as the Assad family.
About 80 percent of the Division’s soldiers and officers are Alawites and nearly 90 percent of them are career soldiers. The Division has a military base in the south of Damascus, which covers about 90 square kilometers and includes several mountain bunkers in Mount Qasioun.
An unnamed member of the opposition Local Coordination Committees tells Asharq Alawsat, “Over the last few weeks, Mount Qasioun – which overlooks the capital -- was converted to the largest military encampment that Damascus has ever known. All artillery weapons are aimed directly at the suburbs surrounding Damascus
“Because the feeling is that Zero Hour is imminent, the regime moved nearly all ammunitions into the capital and Mount Qasioun…
“Fear of reprisals by the Fourth Division won’t push back the battle for Damascus, which is knocking at the door. We’re mobilizing all our resources. People are stocking up medical supplies. Others are preparing to evacuate civilians and the rest are bracing for the offensive on the capital.”
“The Syrian revolution is okay,” Asharq Alawsat’s editor-in-chief Tariq Alhomayed writes in his leader today, adding in part:
“For almost a fortnight, the Arab media and many people overlooked details of Syrian revolution happenings. They were busy following news of the eight-day war in Gaza, then the Egyptian president’s counterrevolutionary decisions. Despite this, the Syrian revolution is okay. It is forging ahead on the right path, which will soon bring down the Damascus tyrant…
“The Syrian revolution is okay because Assad failed to exploit the breather when the media, the world at large and many Arabs were focused on the eight-day war in Gaza and the Egyptian president’s regressive decisions as the Syrian insurgents continued to tiptoe to Damascus.
“Assad is besieged more than ever before. Neither Russia, nor Iran -- with Hezbollah in tow – were able to change the equilibrium on the ground. Syrians are inching forward to lay siege to the tyrant’s palace. They are capturing Assad’s vital military bases one after the other. They are making political headway in the Arab world and Europe, leaving Assad aides Farouk el-Sharaa, Walid Muallem and Bouthaina Shaaban dumbstruck…
“The Syrian revolution is okay. All we’re waiting for now is tyrant Assad’s overthrow, which is looming more than at any time.”

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Palestine seen winning UN “Observer State” vote

Full text of General Assembly draft resolution
Forty-eight hours before the UN General Assembly session at which Palestine's application for Observer State status is to be voted on, a European Union source predicts to Inner City Press, after polling, that up to 15 EU members will vote Yes.
The source said the total of No's membership-wide might be as low as 10, including Israel, Canada, the United States "and its satellites."
“These predictions seem aggressive, but the source has until now proved golden.”
As a "non-member state", Palestine would have the same status as the Vatican.
The Observer Mission of Palestine to the UN has circulated a revised version of the draft resolution.
Following is the full text of the new draft -- dubbed "Rev 1”:

DRAFT [26 November 2012] - Rev. 1
67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Agenda Item 37: Question of Palestine
Status of Palestine in the United Nations
The General Assembly,
Guided by the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, and stressing in this regard the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples,
Recalling its resolution 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 19701, affirming, inter alia, the duty of every State to promote through joint and separate action realization of the principle of equal rights and self- determination of peoples,
Stressing the importance of maintaining and strengthening international peace founded upon freedom, equality, justice and respect for fundamental human rights,
Recalling its resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947,
Reaffirming the Charter principle of tile inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,
Reaffirming relevant Security Council resolutions, including, inter alia, resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 446 (1979), 478 (1980), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and 1850 (2008),
Reaffirming the applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, with regard to the matter of prisoners,
Reaffirming its resolution 3236 (XXIX) of 22 November 1974, and all relevant resolutions, including resolution 66/146 of 19 December 20 11,reaffirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine,
Reaffirming its resolution 43/176 of 15 December 1988, resolution 66117 of 30 November 20 11, and all relevant resolutions regarding the "Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine", which, inter alia, stress the need for (a) the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem; (b) the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination and the right to their independent State; (c) a just resolution of the problem of the Palestine refugees in conformity with resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948; and (d) the complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,
Reaffirming also its resolution 66/18 of 30 November 2011 and all relevant resolutions regarding the status of Jerusalem, bearing in mind that the annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognized by the international community, and emphasizing the need for a way to be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the capital of two States,
Recalling the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of 9 July 2004,
Reaffirming its resolution 58/292 of 6 May 2004, affirming, inter alia, that the status of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, remains one of military occupation, and that in accordance with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, the Palestinian people have the right to self-determination and to sovereignty over their territory,
Recalling its resolutions 3210 (XXIX) of 14 October 1974 and 3237 (XXIX) of 22 November 1974, by which, respectively, the Palestine Liberation Organization was invited to participate in the deliberations of the General Assembly as the representative of the Palestinian people and was granted observer status,
Recalling also its resolution 43/177 of 15 December 1988, by which it, inter alia, acknowledged the proclamation of the State of Palestine by the Palestine National Council on 15 November 1988, and decided that the designation "Palestine" should be used in place of the designation "Palestine Liberation Organization" in the United Nations system, without prejudice to the observer status and functions of the Palestine Liberation Organization within the United Nations system,
Taking into consideration that the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in accordance with a decision by the Palestine National Council, is entrusted with the powers and responsibilities of the Provisional Government of the State of Palestine2,
Recalling its resolution 52/250 of 7 July 1998, by which additional rights and privileges were accorded to Palestine in its capacity as observer,
Recalling the Arab Peace Initiative adopted in March 2002 by the League of Arab States,
Reaffirming its commitment, in accordance with international law, to the two-State solution of an independent, sovereign, democratic, viable and contiguous State of Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace and security on the basis of the pre-1967 borders;
Bearing in mind the mutual recognition of 9 September 1993 between the Government of the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the representative of the Palestinian people,
Affirming the right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders,
Commending the Palestinian National Authority's 2009 plan for constructing the institutions of an independent Palestinian State within a two-year period, and welcoming the positive assessments in this regard about readiness for Statehood by the World Bank, the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund and as reflected in the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee Chair Conclusions of April 2011 and subsequent Chair Conclusions, which determined that the Palestinian Authority is above the threshold for a functioning State in key sectors studied,
Recognizing that full membership is enjoyed by Palestine in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, and the Group of Asian States and is also a full member as in the League of Arab States, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Group of 77 and China,
Recognizing that, to date, 132 States Members of the United Nations have accorded recognition to the State of Palestine,
Taking note of the 11 November 2011 report of the Security Council Committee on the Admission of New Members,
Stressing the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine until it is satisfactorily resolved in all its aspects,
Reaffirming the principle of universality of membership of the United Nations,
1. Reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their State of Palestine on the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967;
2. Decides to accord to Palestine Non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations, without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United Nations as the representative of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the relevant resolutions and practice;
3. Expresses the hope that the Security Council will consider favorably the application submitted on 23 September 2011 by the State of Palestine For admission to full membership in the United Nations;
4. Affirms its determination to contribute to the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the attainment of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East that ends the occupation that began in l967 and fulfills the vision of two States, an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders;
5. Expresses the urgent need for the resumption and acceleration of negotiations within the Middle East peace process, based on the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap, for the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides that resolves all outstanding core issues, namely the Palestine refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, security and water;
6. Urges all States and the specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations system to continue to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination, independence and freedom;
7. Requests the Secretary-General to take the measures to implement the present resolution and to report to the Assembly within three months on progress made in this regard.
1Declaration of Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (24 October 1970)
2A/43/928 of 9 December 1988

HRW confirms cluster bombs killed Syria children

Human Rights Watch statement released today:
(Washington, DC) – Compelling evidence has emerged that an airstrike using cluster bombs on the town of Deir al-Asafeer near Damascus killed at least 11 children and wounded others on November 25, 2012. The Syrian government should immediately cease its use of this highly dangerous weapon, which has been banned by most nations.
“This attack shows how cluster munitions kill without discriminating between civilians and military personnel,” said Mary Wareham, arms division advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Due to the devastating harm caused to civilians, cluster bombs should not be used by anyone, anywhere, at any time.”

According to video footage and testimony from local residents, at least 11 children were killed in the strike on Saraya neighborhood in the eastern part of Deir al-Asafeer. Two residents told Human Rights Watch that the cluster bomb strike occurred as a group of at least 20 local children were gathered in a field where they usually play.

One witness said:
Around 2:50 p.m. a MIG-23 appeared in the sky. I was 100 meters away from the playground. I looked outside and saw the MIG hovering around and then release six cluster bombs as it flew away. I saw two breaking in half. Then I heard a series of small explosions. It sounded like fireworks but of course louder. Then I heard people screaming and running toward the playground. I followed them with the rest of the men who were with me. When I reached the playground I saw five children dead and many others wounded. The severely injured children were taken to nearby hospitals and the ones with lighter wounds to a field hospital.

A Human Rights Watch analysis of videos posted online by Syrian activists of the scene of the attack indicates that at least three RBK-250/275 AO-1SCh cluster bombs were used in the strike. Each RBK-250/275 AO-1SCh cluster bomb contains 150 AO-1SCh antipersonnel fragmentation bomblets and creates a destructive footprint of 4,800 square meters (52,000 square feet), the equivalent of a United States football field, according to a standard international air-launched reference guide. Markings on the cluster bomb remnants indicate they were manufactured in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. There is no information available on how or when Syria acquired them.
Video footage posted by Syrian activists of the immediate aftermath of the attack shows children and adults lying severely wounded on the ground, with injuries consistent with those caused by cluster bombs.

Cluster bomb remnants and local testimony indicate that one bomb landed in the field where the witnesses said the children were playing, a second bomb landed on a house less than 50 meters away, and the third bomb landed in farmland approximately 150 meters from the field.
One video shows unexploded bomblets found in the field where the witnesses said the children were playing. On the video, a resident who lives next to the field says that at least six children died in the field from the attack: Shahd al-Lahham al-Omar, 4 years old, Mamdouh Shehab, 11, Mohamad al-Shafouni, 11, Roba Youssef al-Ali, 13, and two other unnamed children.

According to local residents, a second cluster bomb remnant was found less than 50 meters away from the field and killed four children in a house: Mohamad Bassel al-Lahham, 5, Eman al-Lahham, 12, Adnan al-Hussein, 7, and Anoud Mohamad, 12. An old man was also severely wounded.
A third cluster bomb remnant was found in the farmland 150 meters from the field where the children were playing. The cluster bomb killed Zeinab Othman, 12, and one of her parents. The family was working in the farmland at the time, a resident said. The cluster bomb attack also killed and maimed cattle grazing in the area.

The witnesses said that there is no base for the rebel Free Syria Army (FSA) near or around the area. “There is no FSA equipment, machinery or anything else around the fields or near the farmlands,” one resident told Human Rights Watch. Another said: “There were no FSA vehicles or machinery visible. FSA soldiers do not live in residential areas.” Human Rights Watch has not been able to confirm independently the presence or otherwise of any fighters but the large number of children playing outside at the time of the strike would be consistent with the absence of any fighting in the immediate area.

From the video footage, Human Rights Watch identified more than 50 unexploded AO-1SCh bomblet remnants. Unexploded bomblets pose a deadly risk to those who handle or approach them. There is an urgent need for risk education and support to emergency clearance efforts in Syria to tackle the unexploded ordnance created from the use of cluster munitions and other explosive weapons.
Two witnesses told Human Rights Watch that a MIG warplane flew over again that day and dropped approximately six cluster bombs on another neighborhood in the eastern part of Deir al-Asafeer.

Previously, in October, Human Rights Watch documented an increase in the use of cluster bombs throughout the country by Syrian military aircraft.
“All governments, including Syria’s allies, should condemn Syria’s continued use of cluster bombs as these weapons are subject to a ban under international law due to the harm they cause to civilians,” said Wareham. “A much stronger response is needed to convince the Syrian government to stop using cluster bombs.

At least 16 governments have condemned Syria’s use of cluster munitions, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
A majority of the world’s nations have comprehensively banned the use of cluster munitions through the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which came into force on August 1, 2010. Syria is not a party to the convention and did not participate in the 2007-2008 Oslo Process, which led to creation of the treaty that bans cluster munitions and requires clearance of contaminated areas and assistance to victims. A total of 77 states are party to the convention, while another 34 have signed but not yet ratified.

Cluster munitions can be fired by rockets, mortars, and artillery or dropped by aircraft. They explode in the air, sending dozens, even hundreds, of submunitions or “bomblets” over a wide area. These submunitions often fail to explode on initial impact, leaving duds that act like landmines and explode when handled.

In May, new cluster munition use was reported in Sudan, another country that has not joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions. In 2011, Libya and Thailand, neither of which has signed the convention, also used cluster munitions.
Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the international Cluster Munition Coalition, the civil society campaign behind the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Additionally, videos posted the week of November 18, 2012, by Syrian activists show the use of bombs that contain a payload of incendiary submunitions. The remnants of these weapons in the videos indicate that at least three RBK-250 bombs were used near the town of Maarat al-Numan. Each contained 48 ZAB-2.5 incendiary submunitions. The designation ZAB stands for “zazhigatelnaya aviatsionnaya bomba” meaning “incendiary aircraft bomb.”