Margaret Besheer, Larry Freund, UNITED NATIONS (VOA) — Russia and China on Thursday vetoed a U.S.-backed U.N. Security Council resolution that would have imposed non-military sanctions on the Syrian government, putting the future of diplomacy in limbo as fighting continues in Syria.
After delaying the vote for a day to try to find common ground, the Security Council’s decision comes a day after anti-government rebels bombed a meeting of top Syrian security officials, killing three senior military figures with close ties to President Bashar al-Assad, and as government shelling of neighborhoods in Damascus continued.
Thursday’s vote was 11-2, with abstentions from Pakistan and South Africa. It was the third time during the Syria crisis that Russia and China have voted against the resolution.
The vote threatens the peace mission of U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan and leaves undecided the future of some 300 peacekeepers in Syria, whose mandate is scheduled to end Friday. U.N. sources said the Security Council might convene later Thursday to extend the mandate.
Britain’s U.N. ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said his country was appalled by Russia and China’s decisions to veto the resolution. “The effect of their actions is to protect a brutal regime,” he said, describing the resolution as being aimed at bringing an end to the bloodshed in Syria. “They have chosen to put their national interests ahead of the lives of millions of Syrians.”
Speaking through a translator, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said his country could not agree to a resolution that would have opened the path to external military involvement in Syrian domestic affairs, an opinion challenged by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice.
“Despite paranoid if not disingenuous claims by some to the contrary, it would in no way authorize nor even pave the way for foreign military intervention,” said Rice, adding that escalation of what she called the Syrian government’s attacks against its own people is all the more troubling when considering its stockpile of chemical weapons.
Kofi Annan, U.N. special envoy for Syria, expressed disappointed over the vote.
The Security Council is now considering a resolution that would extend that mandate for a brief period, allowing the observers to make an orderly withdrawal from Syria.
The Obama administration said Thursday it will work outside the U.N. process to help resolve the Syria crisis.
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