Russia and China Veto UN Resolution on Syria Provoking Anger

Western and Arab countries responded with outrage on Sunday after Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to give up power.

Russia and China braved Arab and Western fury tonight by vetoing a UN resolution calling on President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr

Russia and China joined forces in a double veto on Saturday to knock down a Western-Arab U.N. Security Council resolution backing an Arab League plan for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, The Huff Post reports.

The two powers’ refusal to back an Arab League plan for Syria came despite the vote coming within hours of the worst single act of violence in the 11-month uprising.

The other 13 council members voted in favor of the resolution, which would have said that the council “fully supports” the Arab League plan aimed at ending 11 months of bloodshed as Syria has sought to crush an anti-Assad uprising.

This is the second time that permanent members Russia and China have exercised a double veto on the Syria issue. In October, they vetoed a European-drafted resolution condemning Syria and threatening it with possible sanctions.

According to Reuters, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said she was “disgusted” by the vote, which came a day after activists say Syrian forces bombarded the city of Homs, killing more than people in the worst night of bloodshed of the 11-month uprising.

“Any further bloodshed that flows will be on their hands,” ambassador Susan Rice said after the Russian-Chinese veto.

Mohammed Loulichki, the U.N. ambassador of Morocco, the sole Arab member of the 15-nation council, voiced his “great regret and disappointment” that Moscow and Beijing struck down the resolution.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who held what U.S. officials described as “a very vigorous discussion” with Russia’s Lavrov ahead of the U.N. vote, said it had not been possible to work constructively with Moscow.

“I thought that there might be some ways to bridge, even at this last moment, a few of the concerns that the Russians had. I offered to work in a constructive manner to do so. That has not been possible,” she told reporters at a Munich conference.

Russia’s decision to vote against the resolution came after U.S. and European officials rejected a series of Russian amendments to the draft resolution that Rice said were “unacceptable.”

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who had been highly critical of Western attempts to force through a resolution but had stopped short of saying he would veto it, discussed the issue with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in Munich.

He was said to have submitted the additional amendment dropping the demand for tanks and artillery to be withdrawn, part of the first Arab League peace plan agreed with Syria in November, only on Friday night.

“Our amendments do not demand any extreme efforts,” he said. “If our colleagues display a constructive approach, we will get a collective Security Council resolution that I am certain all countries without exception will sign on to.”

Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, accused the resolution’s backers of “calling for regime change, pushing the opposition towards power and not stopping their provocations and feeding armed struggle.”

“Some influential members of the international community, unfortunately including those sitting around this table, from the very beginning of the Syrian process have been undermining the opportunity for a political settlement,” he said. Moscow is sending Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Damascus on Tuesday.

The two powers’ refusal to back an Arab League plan for Syria came despite the vote coming within hours of the worst single act of violence in the 11-month uprising.

According to The Telegraph, the assault began without warning at 10pm on Friday evening, activists in the city and in London said, and lasted five hours.

Rami Abdulrahman, of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said his contacts had counted 237 dead, including 99 women and children.

Within hours of the bombardment starting, pictures flooded Youtube and television stations of bodies piling up in chaotic aid stations, disfigured by explosions. Lines of lifeless young men splattered with blood packed the rooms of a mosque in one particularly gruelling clip, though it could not be confirmed they were victims of the attack.

Rami Abdullrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said as of late on Saturday he had a list of 128 names of people confirmed killed, accounting for about half the total.

Damascus denies firing on houses and says images of dead bodies on the Internet were staged. Western governments say they believe the activists.

“Yesterday the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement before the U.N. Security Council vote.

“Any government that brutalizes and massacres its people does not deserve to govern,” Obama said.

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