The deaths occurred during three separate clashes at dawn
Soldiers of the Free Syrian Army, formed by army deserters, take position in an undisclosed location in Syria. Syrian army deserters killed at least 27 soldiers and members of the security forces during clashes in the southern province of Daraa on Thursday, a rights group said. © Ricardo Garcia Vilanova - AFP/File
The deaths occurred during three separate clashes at dawn
Last updated: December 15, 2011

Syria deserters kill at least 27 troops

Russia on Thursday surprised the Western powers by proposing a UN Security Council resolution on the Syria crisis amid mounting international shock over the deadly crackdown.

The resolution condemns the violence by President Bashar al-Assad's government and opposition groups, but proposes no sanctions. Europe and the United States welcomed the Russian initiative but said the proposed text was not tough enough on the Damascus government.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, however, western nations would try to work with Russia in a bid to pass a first Security Council resolution on the crackdown, which the UN says has left more than 5,000 dead.

As a key ally of Syria, Russia has tried to head off Security Council intervention in the crisis. With China, it vetoed a council resolution proposed by European nations in October condemning Assad's action.

Russia however called emergency talks of the 15-nation body on Syria to propose the new resolution which strongly condemns violence by "all parties, including disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities," according to a copy obtained by AFP.

It also raises concern over "the illegal supply of weapons to the armed groups in Syria." Western diplomats said they had no firm evidence of arms trafficking to Syria.

Western envoys called the draft "unbalanced" because it put opposition violence on the same level as the crackdown by government forces, many of whom are starting to defect, according to rights groups.

They also said there should be a total arms embargo and give clear support to Arab League sanctions against Syria.

Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin again rejected any talk of sanctions and even criticized the Arab League measures -- though the draft does back Arab League efforts to negotiate a settlement.

"It (sanctions) is a page from somebody else's book and we don't think that this has been a productive, useful move by the Arab League," he said.

"The role of the Security Council should not be to fan the conflict in Syria," Churkin added.

But he acknowledged some of the doubts raised in talks. "We said that we are looking forward to working with them in order to adopt a text, a resolution of the Security Council, which will really bring about an end to violence and crisis in Syria and help that country proceed on the path of political reforms."

Western officials put up multiple objections but said the document was a basis for talks after months of division over how to handle Syria.

"There are some issues in it that we would not be able to support. There's unfortunately a seeming parity between the government and peaceful protesters," Clinton said in Washington.

"But we are going to study the draft carefully. It will have to be shared with the Arab League, which has taken the lead on the response to what's going on in Syria," Clinton said.

"And hopefully we can work with the Russians who for the first time at least are recognizing that this is a matter that needs to go to the Security Council," she said.

France's UN envoy, Gerard Araud, called the Russian move "extraordinary" and said it showed that Russia was feeling the international pressure over its support for Assad.

He said the text "clearly needs many amendments because it is unbalanced. But it is a text on a basis on which we are going to negotiate."

Araud and other envoys also said there could be no comparison between the government and opposition violence.

"We have to really show that the violence has come from the Syrian regime, that it is the Syrian regime which has shot down thousands of demonstrators," Araud said.

"Of course, after eight months of violence now, some demonstrators are shooting back, but we can’t simply put them back to back, and say that they are all 'acts of violence'."

Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig said the Russian text was an overdue sign that the council is now discussing Syria "in a serious manner" called the text "insufficient".

He said the text would have to include references to a UN Human Rights Council recommendations for an independent commission of inquiry and give backing to all measures by the Arab League "not just selectively but all the decisions."

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