Taking sides: Major split in UNSC after Syria veto
"Regrettably, the authors of the Syrian draft resolution did not want to make additional efforts to reach a consensus," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov posted on Twitter Sunday. "The result is known."
On Saturday, Russia and China used their veto during a vote at the UN Security Council on the Morocco-brokered draft resolution on Syria. Moscow says Western states have made a habit of using the UN to bring about regime change in countries like Libya, and they now want to do the same in Syria.
Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, justified the veto by saying the proposed resolution "sent an unbalanced signal to the Syrian parties." The resolution puts pressure on the Syrian regime to immediately withdraw its forces from cities and towns – but nothing of the sort applies to the opposition.
“No president would leave a residential area to armed extremists without any attempt to resist,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The official Russian position is that the Syrian opposition must disassociate itself from extremist groups. Moscow’s proposals were met with bewilderment at the Security Council and internationally, as well as rebukes that the comments came too late to be included onto the draft.
“We warned back on Friday we would have corrections,” remarks Lavrov. A letter was sent both to Vitaly Churkin and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday.
China backed Russia’s amendments to the draft resolution.
Pushing through such a vote “when parties are still seriously divided will not help maintain the unity and authority of the Security Council, or help resolve the issue," said Chinese UN ambassador Li Baodong.
Lavrov will go to Damascus on February 7 to meet Syrian President Bashar al- Assad. The Russian Foreign Minister will be accompanied by Foreign Intelligence chief Mikhail Fradkov. The two are set to facilitate democratic reform in the Arab country and sponsor the Arab League’s peace plan.
Day democracy died?
Nonetheless, Russia and China have faced international anger for blocking what is being perceived by Western nations as an attempt to end the violence in Syria.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon expressed his deep regrets over Russia and China's decision to block the resolution, saying it could undermine the image of the UN.
America’s ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, condemned the vetoes as "shameful." It showed, she said, how Russia and China aimed to "sell out the Syrian people and shield a craven tyrant." Rice went on to describe proposed Russian amendments to the text as "unacceptable," adding the US was "disgusted" by the move.
Later in the day, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on “friends of a democratic Syria” within the UN to form a group similar to the Contact Group on Libya, which oversaw NATO operations in the country and international aid and to the forces opposing the regime of the late Muammar Gaddafi.
Clinton also vowed to "expose" those who are funding Assad's regime and sending arms shipments to the Syrian government.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague accused the Russia and China of encouraging further bloodshed after they vetoed a resolution in what he said marked "an hour of shame" for the United Nations.
"Their approach lets the Syrian people down, and will only encourage President Assad's brutal regime to increase the killing, as it has done in Homs over the past 24 hours," he said.
The Arab League, though disappointed by China and Russia’s stance, said it would continue cooperating with the UN, the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition to resolve the crisis. In a Sunday statement, the League expressed hope for a political solution including reforms, but that “avoids any … foreign military intervention.” Arab Foreign Ministers will convene again on February 11.
Syria divided over veto
Thousands of pro-Assad demonstrators in the Syrian capital, Damascus, spent all night celebrating the resolution’s downfall.
At the same time, the opposition Syrian National Council condemned China and Russia’s veto, saying it would give Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad “a license to kill.” The Council had hoped for a UN resolution which would allow the events in Syria to be treated as genocide.
On Sunday, over 200 demonstrators, infuriated by Moscow’s diplomacy at the UN, broke into the Russian consulate in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
Earlier in the week, anti-Assad demonstrators attacked at least seven Syrian embassies. In London, 22 people were arrested after they burst into the embassy. In Australia, the Syrian diplomatic mission was ransacked by a mob. The most vigorous protest began in the wake of news of fresh violence on Saturday in the southern city of Homs, where over 200 were reportedly killed in artillery fire.