Russia, China praised, vilified over UN Syria vetoes
Russia and China, praised by Syria for vetoing a UN resolution against its deadly crackdown on protests, have come under fresh attack by Western powers wanting to punish President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the fresh wave of criticism, saying the people of Syria "will not forget" the vetoes and accused the UN Security Council of having "abrogated its responsibility" by failing to push through the European draft resolution.
Following the lost vote at an angry Council meeting late on Tuesday, the British, French and German foreign ministers all said new pressure would be put on the Syrian government. Russia defended its veto of the much-softened resolution which had been backed by nine of the 15 members.
Russia and China used their veto as permanent members of the Security Council, rejecting any hint of sanctions against Syria. Brazil, India, Lebanon and South Africa abstained.
The meeting ended in acrimony with US ambassador Susan Rice leading her delegation out after Syria's ambassador said the United States was linked to "genocide".
"We believe the Security Council abrogated its responsibility yesterday. The countries that chose to veto the resolution will have to offer their own explanations to the Syrian people," Clinton told a news conference late on Wednesday.
"The Syrian people will not forget," added Clinton, who was in the Dominican Republic for a ministerial forum on Latin America.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon meanwhile said the United Nations has a "moral obligation" to end violence in Syria, as he criticised the failure to pass the resolution.
"The secretary general regrets that the Security Council has not been able to agree and hopes that it will overcome its divisions," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said of the failed resolution.
Ban again condemned the Syria violence as "unacceptable" and called on the international powers "to speak and act in a coherent manner."
"He believes we have a moral obligation to prevent further bloodshed and help the people of Syria out of this dangerous crisis," Nesirky told reporters.
According to the UN, more than 2,700 people have died in the crackdown on protests in Syria over the past seven months. Ban himself has said that Assad has "lost all humanity."
A senior aide to the Syrian president, meanwhile, hailed as "historic" the Russian and Chinese vetoes.
"This is a historical day that Russia and China as nations are standing for the people and against injustices," Syria's presidential adviser, Bouthaina Shaaban, told AFP in Damascus.
"I think that all the Syrians are happy that now there are other powers in the world to stand against hegemony, against military interference in the affairs of countries and people.
"I feel that the veto that Russia and China have used... is a veto that stands with the Syrian people and gives the time for us to enforce and enhance reforms," she added.
With no end in sight to the Syria bloodshed, envoys said more action could be taken.
"The crisis in Syria will stay before the Security Council. We will not rest until the council rises to meet its responsibilities," said Rice.
Russia defended its veto decision and its links with Assad's government.
"We are not advocates of the Bashar al-Assad regime at all," Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin told reporters after the vote.
"We are talking to the government in Damascus in a very demanding tone of voice, telling them what needs to be done in order to get out of this crisis," he added, denying that his country was taking sides with Assad.
Churkin highlighted fears that the resolution could be used for military action against Syria. Russia, China and others still accuse NATO of abusing UN resolutions on Libya to launch air strikes this year.
"Let there be no doubt: this is not about military intervention," responded the US ambassador. "This is not about Libya. That is a cheap ruse by those who would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people."
China's foreign ministry strongly rejected the European resolution as an attempt to "blindly impose pressure" on Syria.
In Paris, the opposition Syrian National Council formed in Istanbul on Sunday, uniting groups across the political spectrum, warned that the Russians "are truly encouraging violence."
"Supporting Bashar al-Assad in his militarist and fascist project will not encourage the Syrian people to stick to a peaceful revolution," SNC president Burhan Ghalioun told AFP.
© 2011 AFP