Russia and China have vetoed a UN Security Council resolution backed by Western powers that would have imposed sanctions on Assad regime over use of chemical weapons against civilians.
It was Russia’s seven veto in five years to save its Syrian ally. China, also one of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, has joined Russia in vetoing six resolutions on Syria.
The measure was drafted by Britain, France and the United States and won nine votes in favour, while three countries – China, Russia and Bolivia – opposed it.
Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and Egypt abstained.
Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under an agreement negotiated between Russia and the US.
The Syrian government has previously denied carrying out chemical attacks.
However, investigations by the UN and international chemical weapons watchdog have found that Syrian government forces carried out three chemical weapons attacks in 2014 and 2015.
The reports said that Syrian air force helicopters dropped chlorine gas on rebel-held areas, twice in March 2015 and once in April 2014.
The use of chlorine as a weapon is prohibited under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.
The new Russian veto
Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned that imposing sanctions on Syria during the ongoing Geneva conference was “completely inappropriate” and would undermine the effort to end Syria’s nearly six-year crisis.
Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov echoed Putin’s view that imposing sanctions would have undermined peace talks and described the draft resolution as a “provocation” by the Western “troika”.
US Ambassador to the UN expressed his sadness over the voto.
“This resolution is very appropriate,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the Council after the measure was defeated in the vote.
“It is a sad day on the Security Council when members start making excuses for other member states killing their own people.”
“The world is definitely a more dangerous place,” she said, criticising the vetoes as “abominable and indefensible choices”.
Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov described the statements made against Moscow in the Security Council as “outrageous” and declared that “God will judge you.”
“Today’s clash or confrontation is not a result of our negative vote. It is a result of the fact that you decided on provocation while you knew well ahead of time our position,” said Safronkov.
British U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the council before the vote: “This is about taking a stand when children are poisoned. It’s that simple. It’s about taking a stand when civilians are maimed and murdered with toxic weapons.”
French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said the failure by the council to act would “send a message of impunity.”
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.