Western and Arab powers Saturday reacted angrily to Russia and China’s veto of a Security Council resolution on the Syria crisis, but Moscow and Beijing insisted the text needed more work.
Russia, a long-time Syrian ally, and China had earlier vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown despite reports by Syrian activists that troops overnight had killed 230 civilians in the city of Homs.
Russia’s U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin justified the veto by saying the proposed resolution “sent an unbalanced signal to the Syrian parties.”
Russia had complained that the draft resolution was an improper and biased attempt at “regime change” in Syria, which is Moscow's sole major Middle East ally, an important buyer of Russian arms exports and host to a Russian naval base.
Churkin’s Chinese counterpart Li Baodong said 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.”
But the international community reacted with anger at the double veto, the second by the two countries since the start of the Syrian crisis a year ago.
U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon expressed deep regret, saying that it undermined the role of the United Nations, according to a statement.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice dispensed with the usual diplomatic courtesies and declared she was “disgusted” by the Russian-Chinese veto, adding that “any further bloodshed that flows will be on their hands”.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the veto would encourage further crackdowns by the Syrian regime.
“The Syrian tragedy must stop,” said Sarkozy in a statement issued through his office.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Russia and China had let the Syrian people down.
They had, he said, “sided with the Syrian regime and its brutal suppression of the Syrian people in support of their own national interests.”
Mohammed Loulichki, the U.N. ambassador of Morocco, the sole Arab member of the 15-nation council, voiced his “great regret and disappointment” at the veto and said the Arabs had no intention of abandoning their plan.
Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi termed the double veto “very bad news” while U.S. ambassador Susan Rice described it as “shameful”.
European Union chief diplomat Catherine Ashton also expressed regret at the vetoes.
“The time has come to speak with one voice and demand an end to the bloodshed and speak out for a democratic future for Syria,” she said in a statement.
“We condemn the ongoing bloodshed and stand by the Syrian people against the repressive regime.
“We call on President Assad to end immediately the killing of civilians, withdraw the Syrian army from besieged towns and cities and step aside in order to make room for a peaceful transition for the sake of his country.”
The European parliament expressed dismay and its president, Martin Schulz, urged Moscow and Beijing to “take their international responsibilities seriously”.
London-based rights group Amnesty International called the veto 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.
Thirteen countries voted for the resolution with only Russia and China voting against. Both countries, as permanent members of the Security Council, have a veto power.
The draft resolution, put forward by Morocco, had called for an immediate end to all violence. It did not impose any sanctions, nor did it authorize military action.
Syrian U.N. envoy Bashar Ja'afari criticized the resolution and its sponsors, which included Saudi Arabia and seven other Arab states, saying nations “that prevent women from attending a soccer match” had no right to preach democracy to Syria.
Mideast officials criticize U.N.
Arab leaders and officials attacked the U.N. Sunday after Russia and China blocked a resolution condemning the Damascus regime, as Tunisia urged the world to cut diplomatic ties with Syria.
Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said Moscow and Beijing’s actions showed the veto system of the Security Council was flawed and said the two countries had “misused” their right to block the resolution against Syria.
“Undoubtedly the international community has to reconsider this mechanism of decision taking,” said Jebali.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said that “Cold War” logic had prevailed in the Security Council and that Russia and China “did not vote on existing realities.”
Egypt’s foreign minister, Mohamed Amr, said the Arab League would convene in Cairo on Saturday and “evaluate” the situation following the Security Council vote.
“Bloodshed has to stop. This is a tragedy that cannot be allowed to continue in our midst,” he said.
Qatari minister of state for foreign affairs, Khalid Mohamed al-Attiyah, described Saturday as a “sad day”.
He said Russia and China’s move was a “bad signal to Assad that gives a license to kill, full stop.”