REPORTING FROM WASHINGTON -- Speaking with an unusually unanimous voice on a divisive issue, the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday approved a statement expressing support for former Secretary-General Kofi Annan's peacemaking efforts in Syria and for providing aid to victims of the violence.
Though the vote was nonbinding, it significantly included the support of Russia, which has stood in the way of previous proposed council actions on Syria. Moscow has opposed international intervention in the conflict and has a longstanding alliance with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
China, which has followed the lead of Russia on the issue, also joined the vote.
Russia, facing international criticism for its stance amid continuing bloodshed, has stepped up its criticism of the Syrian regime in recent days, though it continues to oppose any U.N. measure that could provide an international blessing for the use of foreign forces in Syria.
Annan, acting as a U.N. envoy, has proposed a series of steps. They include a daily two-hour halt to fighting to evacuate the wounded and bring in aid, followed by a cease-fire and the launch of a political dialogue between the regime and its opposition.
The regime has so far shown little appetite for such steps. But the Obama administration and allied world powers hope that pressure from Russia, one of Syria’s most important outside supporters, could change Assad’s mind.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has harshly condemned Russia's past stances. In comments from Washington, she praised Wednesday's action, saying: "The council has now spoken with one voice.”
Photo: This image made from amateur video and released by Shaam News Network on Wednesday purports to show black smoke rising from buildings in Homs, Syria. The U.N. Security Council has strongly backed international envoy Kofi Annan's proposals to end the yearlong bloodshed in Syria. Credit: Shaam News Network via APTN / Associated Press.