United Nations, (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russia and China Thursday vetoed a Western-backed UN resolution on Syria over fears that it could lead to foreign military intervention in the violence-wracked Middle East country.
“We offered flexibility on Russia and China’s concerns, but still they refused to engage,” said Britain’s UN envoy Mark Lyall Grant after the vote.
“They have chosen to put their national interests ahead of the lives of millions of Syrians,” he said.
Lyall Grant also said the failure to approve the resolution would lead to “all-out civil war”.
Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkov called the comments “unacceptable”.
“We have missed yet another critical opportunity to work together,” said US envoy Susan Rice. “We, and especially the people of Syria, cannot afford to miss any more.”
Rice said the conflict in Syria could result in a “proxy war that will engulf the region”.
The resolution was drawn up by Britain and threatens non-military sanctions against President Bashar Al Assad’s regime if it fails to withdraw heavy weapons and troops from urban areas within 10 days.
The resolution is also tied to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which provides for the use of force to put an end to the rapidly escalating conflict.
It received 11 votes in favour, with two abstentions.
The 15-strong Security Council now has time until midnight Friday to come to an agreement on the extension of the UN monitoring mission in Syria. Russia had earlier circulated a rival resolution that proposed extending the mission by 90 days, but contained no mention of sanctions.
Churkov said Thursday that Western countries had refused to work with Russia on the resolution and that Moscow would not put it to a Security Council vote.
This was the third time Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution on Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed earlier this year not to allow in Syria a repeat of the “Libya scenario”, which saw the ouster and killing of long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after a NATO military campaign.
Russia said Wednesday after a suicide bombing in Damascus killed the Syrian defence minister that the adoption of the West’s resolution would be “direct support” for rebel forces, who say they have launched the final battle for control of the capital.
Fighting raged in Damascus for a fifth day Thursday, as rumours circulated that Assad and his family had left the country. But Syrian state television aired footage Thursday afternoon of Assad swearing in the country’s new defence minister.
The UN, quoting Syrian rights activists, says around 16,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the revolt in March 2011.
Fyodor Lukyanov, a Moscow-based analyst and editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Affairs journal, said before the vote that a failure to pass the resolution could see the open arming of rebel forces.
“If there is no compromise, there will be no more resolutions, and the West, along with leading Arab states, will begin to more actively and more openly support the opposition and hope that Assad will be toppled by force,” said Lukyanov.
“Certain countries might also recognize the (opposition) Syrian National Council as the legal government,” he said.