Russia and China joined forces on Tuesday and vetoed a European-drafted UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria and hinting it could face sanctions if its bloody crackdown on protesters continues.
Reuters is reporting that Moscow and Beijing’s decision to use their veto power could indicate that the Security Council might be headed for a longer-term deadlock on issues related to the Middle East and North Africa.
According to the report, the draft resolution received nine votes in favor and four abstentions from Brazil, India, Lebanon and South Africa. Russia and China cast the only votes against the resolution, which was drafted by France with the cooperation of Britain, Germany and Portugal.
The resolution which was voted on was already watered down, after Russia objected to the original text that called for immediate tough sanctions on President Bashar Assad’s regime.
European nations decided not to pursue the sanctions do the objection from Russia and China, expressing instead a “determination” to review within 30 days Syria’s compliance with the resolution’s demands which include immediately ending all violence, allowing fundamental rights and freedoms including free expression and peaceful assembly, lifting all media restrictions and allowing unhindered access for human rights investigators.
If Syria would not comply, the draft expressed the council’s determination “to consider the adoption of targeted measures, including sanctions.”
After Russia rejected this text as well, the Europeans came back with a new text that watered down the sanctions language further and which was voted upon on Tuesday.
France’s UN Ambassador spoke out harshly following Russia and China’s veto.
“We cannot today doubt the meaning of this veto of this text,” Ambassador Gerard Araud was quoted by Reuters as saying. “This is not a matter of wording. It is a political choice. It is a refusal of all resolutions of the council against Syria.”
He added, “This veto will not stop us. No veto can give carte blanche to the Syrian authorities.”
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, whose country expanded its sanctions against Syria on Monday, said Washington was “outraged” by the “double veto”, adding that the time had long past for the Security Council to adopt “tough targeted sanctions” on Damascus.
“The crisis in Syria will stay before the Security Council and we will not rest until this council rises to meet its responsibilities,” Rice was quoted as having said.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant also expressed his deep disappointment over the rejection of the resolution.
Reading a joint statement by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, Grant told reporters that “those who blocked this resolution will have that on their conscience,” and that it was a “bitter blow” to those fighting for democracy in Syria.
Meanwhile, a report on an Iranian news service quoted on Tuesday what it said was a recent conversation between Assad and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
According to the report, during the conversation Assad threatened to “shower Israel with rockets” if NATO or the U.S. attacks Syria.
Assad reportedly told Davutoglu that “if crazy action is taken against Damascus, I will within 6 hours transfer hundreds of rockets and missiles to the Golan Heights to fire them at Tel Aviv.”