Security Council
Security CouncilUN Spokesperson

Russia and China on Thursday vetoed a resolution in the UN Security Council that threatened Syrian authorities with sanctions if they did not withdraw troops from towns and cities and cease using heavy weapons in a crackdown on a 16-month long popular uprising against president Bashar al-Assad.

It was the third time that Russia – which has billions of dollars tied to Assad's survival – and China have used their veto power to block UN Security Council resolutions targeting the Syrian regime.

The vetoed resolution, which would have extended a UN observer mission in Syria for 45 days, received 11 votes in favor, while South Africa and Pakistan abstained.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, told the council he was "appalled" by Russia and China's vetoes.

"The effect of their actions is to protect a brutal regime. They have chosen to put their national interests ahead of the lives of millions of Syrians," he said.

French UN envoy Gerard Araud, said "We simply couldn't be accomplices of a strategy which brought together false diplomatic action and paralysis." 

"This double veto will not stop us," he added. "We will continue to assist a Syrian opposition on its path to democratic transition in Syria."

The 15-member council still has time to negotiate another resolution on the fate of the unarmed mission before its initial 90-day mandate expires at midnight Friday.

Britain, France, Germany and the United States proposed in the vetoed resolution that international envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan be placed under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. 

Chapter 7 allows the council to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention.

Russia has repeatedly made clear, however, that it will block any resolution on Syria under Chapter 7. Moscow put forward its own resolution to extend the UN mission for 90 days, but it does not contain a threat of sanctions. 

If the mission is renewed, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has recommended shifting the emphasis of the work of the 300 unarmed military observers to focus on documenting human rights abuses.

The observer force suspended most of its monitoring activity on June 16 due to increased risk from rising violence.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has gone on record saying there is ample evidence to prosecute Assad for crimes against humanity, should his regime fall.

There have been ubiquitous reports of the systemic rape, torture, kidnapping, and summary execution of dissidents and their families by Assad forces and allied militamen in recent months.

At present it is believed at least 12,500 people – most of them civilians – have been killed since violence erupted in Syria in March 2012.