Last Updated: Sun Feb 05, 2012 11:42 am (KSA) 08:42 am (GMT)

Sarkozy seeks to create ‘friends of Syria’ group to stop ‘tragedy’

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy has expressed his disappointment at China and Russia’s veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution on the Syria crisis. (Reuters)
France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy has expressed his disappointment at China and Russia’s veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution on the Syria crisis. (Reuters)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned China and Russia’s veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution on the Syria crisis Saturday and said Paris was consulting with Arab and European countries to create a “friends of Syria” contact group to find a solution to the crisis.

“The Syrian tragedy must stop,” said Sarkozy in a statement issued through his office.

Sarkozy “strongly deplores the fact that because of the vote of two permanent members (of the U.N. Security Council) and despite the support of 13 other members, the Security Council was unable, for the second time,” to express itself.

Since March 2011, “the Damascus regime has only responded to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for freedom and democracy with fierce repression and endless promises,” the statement added.

Earlier, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe denounced China and Russia’s veto, saying it “paralyzed” the international community.

“It is a heavy responsibility because of course that paralyses the international community,” he told France 2 Television.

“I understand it even less given that we made great efforts to accept the amendments presented by Russia and by China,” he added.

“There was no arms embargo, no sanctions, no call for Bashar al-Assad’s departure in this resolution,” he said, listing the concessions that Western powers had made in their bid to pass the resolution.

“We could not go further,” he said.

Western nations were not prepared to put the Syrian regime, which Juppe said was guilty of crimes against humanity, on the same footing as the opposition forces fighting them, “often with their bare hands.”

Callous betrayal

Russia and China’s veto Saturday of a U.N. resolution on the bloodshed in Syria was also condemned by the Amnesty International a “shockingly callous betrayal” of the Syrian people.

Moscow and Beijing have acted in a “completely irresponsible” way, the London-based human rights group added.

The group’s secretary-general Salil Shetty added: “This is a completely irresponsible use of the veto.

“It is staggering that they have blocked the passage of what was already a very weak draft resolution.

“After a night in which the whole world watched the people of Homs suffering, the actions of these members are particularly shocking.”

Thirteen countries voted for the resolution proposed by European and Arab nations to give strong backing to an Arab League plan to end the clampdown.

Amnesty said it would continue to press Security Council members to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court; impose a comprehensive arms embargo; and implement an assets freeze on President Bashar al-Assad and other top Syrian officials.

Russia and China made a repeat of their rare double veto carried out on October 5 on an earlier condemnation of Assad.

Russia’s U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin called the draft resolution “unbalanced.”

China’s official news agency quoted Li Baodong, Beijing’s representative to the U.N., as saying more consultation had been needed.

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