The Arab League, led by a former Egyptian diplomat, has been ramping up pressure on the Syrian government to halt its crackdown on protesters.
But Egypt's U.N. delegation has been providing diplomatic support to Syria as it faces a Western-backed move in the General Assembly U.N. committee to condemn Damascus. Diplomats say that the resolution is likely to secure the support of several Arab countries, particularly those in the Persian Gulf.
The European-drafted resolution on Syria has garned support from some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan, with Morocco and Kuwaiti expected to follow suit, according to U.N.-based diplomats. But Egypt is not expected to back it, diplomat said.
"The Arab world has sent a very clear message: the massive human rights violations and the suffering of the Syrian people have to stop," said Peter Wittig, Germany's U.N. ambassador. "We appreciate that there is strong support for a resolution by the General Assembly: we hope it will show Assad just how isolated he is."
It is not the first time that Egypt has sought to soften the diplomatic blow to Syria's human rights record. In May, Egypt led an effort to water down a resolution condemning Syrian conduct before the U.N. Human Rights Council.
And last month, Egypt, which is acting as chair of the coordinating bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), circulated a copy of a letter from the Syrian ambassador, Bashar al Jaafari urging the organization's 119 members to vote against a draft U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Syria. The draft is likely to be tabled on Thursday.
Egypt doesn't formally endorse the Syrian letter and as chair of the NAM it is required to pass along any letters from the group's members.
But Egypt attached a detailed cover letter that suggests where its sympathies' lie. The Syrian letter, the Egyptians note, "reminds" NAM members that their leaders have "expressed deep concern with regard" to resolutions that target specific countries in the General Assembly's human rights committee.
Egypt also highlighted Syria's reminder to NAM members that the group's leaders had previously stressed that the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva "should not allow confrontation approaches, exploitation of human rights for political purposes, selective targeting of individual countries for extraneous considerations and double standards."
"In this context," Egypt continued, "the said letter kindly urges all NAM countries to continue to act upon their commitments and principled positions, and in this regard expects them to oppose and vote against the abovementioned draft resolution."
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Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.