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Syria's Ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Bashar Jaafari (C) speaks with China's Ambassador Li Baodong (L) as they arrive at the U.N. Security Council to discuss a European-Arab draft resolution endorsing an Arab League plan calling for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to give up power in New York February 4, 2012.
Assad got the support he wanted from Russia and ChinaImage: Reuters

No resolution

February 4, 2012

International ambassadors have lambasted Russia and China for blocking a UN Security Council resolution, backed by the Arab League, which would have called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down from office.


A draft UN Security Council resolution against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been rejected by two permanent members of the Council.

Russia and China both opposed the draft submitted by Morocco, as was widely expected in the run-up to the vote. Both governments had said that they would not support any resolution that might be used either to force regime change or endorse military intervention in Syria.

The proposed resolution would have condemned the violence against anti-government activists in Syria, with UN estimates suggesting that over 5,400 people have been killed by security forces in roughly 11 months of unrest.

The draft would have also endorsed suggestions from a team of Arab League monitors on how to bring the Syrian unrest to an end. The Arab League had suggested that President Assad step down from office, making way for an interim unity government that would rule until democratic elections could be held.

Member states vote on the draft resolution
The other 13 members of the Security Council voted in favorImage: dapd

Moscow says resolution 'unbalanced'

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said after the vote that the proposed resolution "sent an unbalanced signal to the Syrian parties," and "did not adequately reflect the real state of affairs in Syria." Russia had sought alterations to the resolution that would have also laid some blame for the conflict with anti-government activists. Some concessions and amendments were made to the draft, but the Kremlin said these did not go far enough.

China's official Xinhua news agency, meanwhile, quoted Beijing's representative at the UN, Li Baodong, as saying: "To push through a vote when parties are still seriously divided over the issue will not help maintain the unity and authority of the Security Council, or help resolve the issue."

Russia and China both maintain healty trade ties with Syria.

'Syrian people let down again'

Besides Russia and China, the remaining 13 members of the Security Council approved the proposed resolution - and Western diplomats reacted angrily to the double-veto.

Germany's Ambassador to the United Nations, Peter Wittig
German Ambassador Peter Wittig said the Syrian people had been let down againImage: picture-alliance/dpa

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said she was "disgusted" at Russia and China's votes, also saying that "any further bloodshed that flows will be on their hands."

European nations had co-authored a similar resolution that would have condemned the violence committed by the Syrian regime while threatening Damascus with sanctions. Russia and China also opposed this draft on October 5, 2011.

"Today the Security Council has failed to live up to its responsibility. The people in Syria have been let down again," Germany's UN Ambassador Peter Wittig said.

The French ambassador, Gerard Araud, said that with their vote, Russia and China "had made themselves complicit in a policy of repression carried out by the Assad regime."

"It is a sad day for this council, a sad day for Syrians and a sad day for all friends of democracy," Araud concluded.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement later on Saturday saying that the "Syrian tragedy must stop."

"France is not giving up," Sarkozy's statement read. "It is consulting with its Arab and European partners to create a 'Friends of the Syrian People Group' with the goal of giving international support to implement the Arab League transition plan."

Violence escalates on eve of vote

The Security Council vote followed one of the worst days of violence in the Syrian uprising, with opposition activists saying that at least 260 people were killed in the dissident province of Homs - frequently a flashpoint in Syria.

A Syrian rebel guards an alley, at Rastan area in Homs province, central Syria, on Wednesday Feb. 1, 2012.
Heavy fighting was repoted in the flashpoint city of Homs before the voteImage: AP

Oppsition groups said that the authorities used military weapons, including mortar fire, against dissidents.

"It's difficult to imagine that, after the bloodiest day yet in Syria, there are those who would prevent the world community from condemning this violence," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday. "I know what will happen. More bloodshed, increasing resistance by those whose families are being killed and a greater likelihood that Syria will descend into civil war. That is the outcome everyone must avoid."

Syrian state media said that no such attack had taken place and accused Arab television stations of fabricating the news.

Limited access for international journalists has made verification of reported violence difficult throughout most of the unrest.

A 'no' vote from any of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, the UK, France, China and Russia - automatically dismisses any draft resolution put to the Council.

Had Russia and China chosen to abstain from the vote, as they did with 2011's controversial Security Council resolution on the conflict in Libya, the motion would have passed.

msh/sb (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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