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Daniel Scheschkewitz
Russia's veto won't work, says Daniel ScheschkewitzImage: DW

Syria veto

February 5, 2012

UN efforts to adopt a resolution on Syria have been blocked by Russia and China. While this might not come as a surprise, it's a disgrace and should be internationally condemned, says DW's Daniel Scheschkewitz.


It's a disgrace, a slap in the face of the Syrian people and a low point for the United Nations. There's international indignation over the veto fielded by Russia and China to block the UN resolution drafted by the West and the Arab League. This is particularly obvious as the veto comes on the heels of a bloodbath in Homs with hundreds of dead marking another escalation of violence in Syria.

But the veto was to be expected. While the Munich Security Conference discussed international defense issues, Russia and the US had their own little clash over Syria on the sidelines of the conference. US Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton used her speech on Saturday to condemn the brutal regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Human rights count for little

Clinton's speech was said to have been followed by a strong controversy between her and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov behind closed doors. Lavrov in Munich reiterated Russia's point that the UN should not interfere with internal issues of a country like Syria.

Assad was not a friend of Russia, Lavrov argued, but Syria was nonetheless a sovereign and independent state. He had already threatened a confrontation in the Security Council and so - as was to be expected - Russia vetoed the watered-down draft at the UN in New York.

It's no surprise that Beijing is standing side by side with Russia in backing the Assad regime. Human rights count for little in China and the country pursues a principle of non-interference.

Where were the Europeans? German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle criticized the failure of the UN Security Council with Berlin standing firm behind its US partners in Washington. But other than that there was very little coming from other European leaders. EU foreign policy chief Catherin Ashton, in fact, canceled her attendance of the Munich conference and went on a visit to Brazil, rather than brave freezing temperatures in Germany.

Justice will prevail

How to continue from here? Russia raised the stakes until the very end. The government in Moscow wants any UN resolution to also condemn the violence from the protesters' side and to rule out any option of foreign intervention like in Libya.

But the international community will not grant those demands as they would violate the key principle of having the responsibility to protect the civil population around the globe.

Russiais also using its veto to elevate itself to a position of power that Moscow had lost with the end of the Soviet Union. But a veto will not work to change the course of history here.

And China? For Beijing, the veto was a welcome opportunity to react to the US changing its defense focus towards Asia. But it's doubtful whether it was particularly smart to use the Syria resolution for that.

Chinawill need the raw materials and resources of the Middle East if it wants to continue its economic surge. The people in that region longing for freedom might one day remember that Syrian veto.

And there's a good chance that then, Beijing will regret its decision to block the resolution.

Author: Daniel Scheschkewitz / ai
Editor: Matt Zuvela

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