Russia and China have vetoed a UN draft resolution to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court for war crimes committed by both sides. It was the fourth time the two voted against a Syrian resolution together.
China and Russia used their veto power as permanent UN council members on Thursday to block a draft resolution by the body's Security Council (UNSC) to refer the more than three-year civil war to the world's permanent war crimes tribunal.
The 13 other council members voted in favor of the French-drafted resolution.
The measure would have referred Syria's crisis to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigations of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity without targeting either the government or the opposition.
It was the fourth time Russia and China have together voted against proposed UN action against President Bashar al-Assad and his government. As Syria's closest ally, Moscow has provided the al-Assad regime with diplomatic cover throughout the crisis. China, meanwhile, generally aligns with the Russia.
Outrage over veto
Ahead of the vote, Jan Eliasson, deputy secretary general of the UN, called on Council members to find unity.
"If members of the Council continue to be unable to agree on measures that could provide some accountability for the ongoing crimes, the credibility of this body and of the entire organization will continue to suffer," he said before the vote.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who had called the vote a French "publicity stunt," questioned why the resolution was put to a vote when it would again expose disunity among the Council's five permanent members - which also include the United States, France and the United Kingdom. He said the body had previously been able to agree on earlier resolutions such as eliminating Syria's chemical weapons.
"Is it just to try once again to create a pretext for armed intervention in the Syrian conflict?" Churkin asked.
French ambassador Gerard Araud responded by saying Russia's claim that the referral would lay the groundwork for "outside military intervention" in Syria was "absurd."
China's deputy UN ambassador Wang Min defended Beijing's position saying that a referral to the ICC would hinder a resumption of peace talks.
US ambassador Samantha Power responded to the veto by saying, "Our grandchildren will ask us years from now how we could have failed to bring justice to people living in hell on earth."
British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant also lashed out against the move, saying: "It is disgraceful that they have yet again vetoed the Security Council's efforts to take action on human rights violations in Syria."
Frustration has soared as the international community struggles to find a solution to the war that has left almost 3.5 million Syrians in need of aid, and more than 160,000 dead, according to activists.
hc/msh (AFP, AP)