The third Russian and Chinese vetoes at the Security Council over Syria have prompted an American vow to intensify pressure on the Assad government outside the framework of the United Nations.
The double veto by Moscow and Beijing, the third in the past 10 months, blocked a resolution that would have imposed sanction on the Syrian regime if it failed to withdraw heavy weapons from civilian areas within a 10 day period.
“It is pitiful and deeply regrettable that again today Russia and China for the third time, have vetoed a resolution that garnered the overwhelming support of the Security Council.” Rice told reporters after the vote. “Two permanent members are willing to defend Assad, and protect him to the bitter end, even if it would seem logically not to be in their interests. We and others increasingly will have no choice but to look to partnerships and actions outside of this Council to protect the Syrian people.”
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the vetoes put Russia and China on the wrong side of history.
“The decision by a very small minority of the Security Council to veto this action is deplorable and regrettable,” Carney said “There is no doubt that Syria’s future will not include Bashar al-Assad. His days are numbered, and it’s a mistake to prop up the regime as it comes to an end.”
The Western drafted resolution received the support of 11 other members of the Security Council, with South Africa and Pakistan choosing to abstain.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin accused Western countries of using the Security Council to push “their own political designs” rather than engage in negotiations for a political transition.
“They[Western countries] could have done something, anything, to promote dialogue between the Syrian parties, to prevent the further militarization of the Syrian crisis rather than fan the flames of extremists” Churkin told the Council. “The Russian delegation very clearly and consistently explained that we simply cannot except a document under chapter 7, one which would open the path to pressure of sanctions and further to external military involvement in Syrian domestic affairs.”
Western diplomats rejected claims the resolution would have opened the door for military intervention, and Rice called Moscow’s allegations disingenuous and paranoid.
Russia has repeatedly opposed Security Council sanctions against Syria since the start of the crisis. On Thursday, Churkin called the proposed sanctions in the text “one sided”, because they exclusively targeted the Assad government while ignoring acts of violence carried out by armed opposition groups.
“The threat of sanctions..does not reflect the realities in the country today” Churkin said, pointing to Wednesday’s bombing of a government building in Damascus by the Free Syrian Army.
Thursday’s double veto might also put an end to the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria, which was set to expire July 20.
Churkin said that despite the Council’s inability to agree, Moscow hoped the 15 nation security body would adopt a “depoliticized” resolution that extended the UN mission’s presence in Syria.
Ambassador Rice suggested the United States might be prepared to consider a final brief extension of the UN supervision mission, but noted the Obama administration “has not and will not pin its policy on an unarmed observer mission that is deployed in the midst of such widespread violence”
“It is simply not credible to argue that the mere continuation of an unarmed observer mission, in the midst of these threats and spiraling violence can or will fundamentally change anything.” she told reporters.
The UN Security Council agreed to deploy 300 unarmed military observers to Syria back in April to monitor the implementation of the UN peace plan for an initial three months. An escalation in fighting forced the mission to suspend operations in mid June and the Council has since been unable to agree on the mission’s future.
Activists and rights groups say more than 16 000 people have been killed since violence first started over 18 months ago, while tens of thousands more remain behind bars and over 100 000 have been forced to flee into neighboring countries.