Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria that called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Thirteen of the council’s 15 members voted in favour of the resolution aimed to stop the violence in Syria. After the vote, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said, “The draft resolution that was put to a vote didn’t reflect Syria’s realities well enough and sent conflicting signals to the political forces in Syria”. Previously, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the resolution didn’t set enough demands on anti-government armed groups, and that Russia was concerned it could jeopardise the national dialogue among political forces in Syria. Earlier on Saturday, Lavrov said he and Foreign Intelligence Service head Mikhail Fradkov would visit Syria and meet with President al-Assad on 7 February. President Dmitri Medvedev ordered the visit. Lavrov didn’t reveal any details of the upcoming the visit.
This is the second time that Russia and China, as permanent members, have vetoed resolutions on the Syria issue. In October, they blocked a European-sponsored resolution condemning Syria and threatening possible sanctions. According to the UN, the Syrian government‘s 11-month crackdown on protests killed at least 5,400 people. Syrian authorities blamed the violence on armed gangs affiliated with al-Qaeda, and said that more than 2,000 soldiers and police were killed. Some Western countries tried to persuade Moscow to support a resolution effectively authorising a military operation, but Russia repeatedly insisted that the Western drive for a stronger crackdown on Syria is a preparation for a “Libyan scenario”. Russia, one of Assad’s firm supporters during the uprising against his régime, indicated earlier this week that it would veto any draft resolution calling on Assad to step down and providing for “further measures” should he refuse. Moscow proposed its own draft, which the West criticised as being too soft.
On Saturday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said she was “disgusted” by the Russian and Chinese veto on a Security Council resolution on Syria that urges President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Thirteen of the council’s 15 members voted in favour of the resolution aimed to stop the ongoing violence in Syria. She said, “Any further bloodshed that flows will be on their [Russia's and China's] hands”. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the failure to condemn President al-Assad increased the risk of more bloodshed and civil war in Syria, saying, “If we don’t begin the process, I know what’ll happen… more bloodshed, increasing resistance by those whose families are being killed and whose homes are being bombed, and a greater likelihood that Syria will descend into civil war”.
On Saturday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained why Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, saying that without Russia’s latest amendments, the draft would be unilateral and would harm Syria if adopted. On Saturday, veto-wielding UN Security Council members Russia and China blocked the Morocco-proposed draft resolution on Syria that called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Thirteen of the council’s 15 members voted in favour of the draft, backed by the Arab League and the West. Lavrov said he sent Russian amendments to the draft resolution on Friday to US State Secretary Hillary Clinton and Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin so that all partners could get familiarised with them. Lavrov said, “No one can doubt the rationality and objectivity of these amendments”.
Although UN Security Council diplomats had toned down the latest draft in an apparent move to overcome Russia’s opposition, Lavrov said the Morocco-submitted plan was “unilateral”. He pointed up that we should assess the extremist groups provoking violence in Syria in a proper way, which hasn’t been done. He said the resolution didn’t set enough demands on anti-government armed groups, and that Russia was concerned it could jeopardise Syria’s national political dialogue. Besides, he noted, the draft resolution contained a demand that all Assad’s forces should withdraw from cities and towns. Lavrov said, “This phrase, without being linked to a simultaneous termination of violence on the part of armed extremist groups, is absolutely provocative, as no president with self-respect, no matter how treated, will agree to surrender inhabited localities to armed extremists without resistance”.
On Saturday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said she was “disgusted” by the Russian and Chinese veto on the draft, and that “all further bloodshed” that could follow will be on the two countries’ conscience. Rice said, “For months, this council has been held hostage by a couple of members. These members stand behind empty arguments and individual interests while delaying and seeking to strip bare any text that would pressure Assad to change his actions”. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the veto, and his statement distributed through his spokesman called it, “A great disappointment to the people of Syria and the Middle East, and to all supporters of democracy and human rights. It undermines the role of the United Nations and the international community in this period when the Syrian authorities must hear a unified voice calling for an immediate end to its violence against the Syrian people”.
Lavrov said, “We’ve repeatedly said that we aren’t protecting Assad but international law. The prerogatives of the UN Security Council don’t envision interference in internal processes”. Asked why Russia initially agreed with the resolution, but then changed its mind, Churkin said the situation has changed in the past month since the Arab League put forward its plan for Syria. The heads of the Russian and Chinese delegations said their countries hope the international community continues its efforts to stop violence in Syria. On Saturday, Qatar-based satellite TV broadcaster Al Jazeera reported, citing UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, that a new major army offensive in the central Syrian city of Homs killed at least 217 people. Syrian authorities denied any involvement.
4 February 2012