Russia and China on Thursday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would impose sanctions against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad if he does not end the use of heavy weapons.
It was the third time that Russia, a key ally of the Syrian government, and China have used their veto power to block U.N. Security Council resolutions designed to put pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and halt the violence in the 16-month conflict that has killed thousands of people.
There were 11 votes in favor, Russia and China against and two abstentions.
The vote was taking place while as many as 184 people have been killed by the fire of Syrian forces across the country, Al Arabiya reported citing Syrian activists at the Local Coordination Committees.
The resolution sought to “open the path to the pressure of sanctions and further to external military involvement in Syrian domestic affairs,” Russia’s U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin said after vetoing the resolution.
The United States said that the U.N. Security Council has “utterly failed” on Syria and that it will now work outside of the council to confront President Bashar al-Assad.
“We will intensify our work with a diverse range of partners outside the Security Council to bring pressure to bear on the Assad regime and to deliver assistance to those in need,” U.S. ambassador Susan Rice said, as she slammed Russia and China for vetoing a resolution threatening sanctions against Assad.
“The United Kingdom is appalled at the veto of Russia and China,” said Britain's U.N. envoy Mark Lyall Grant, whose country took the lead in writing up the resolution.
The text, backed by the United States, France, Germany and Portugal, calls for non-military sanctions under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter if Assad does not withdraw heavy weapons from Syrian cities in 10 days.
Russia had said it could not accept sanctions.
France said that Russia and China’s veto threatens to end the peace mission of international envoy Kofi Annan.
“Refusing Annan the means of pressure that he asked for is to threaten his mission,” France’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud told the U.N. Security Council after the veto, according to AFP.
The 15-member council still has time to negotiate another resolution on the fate of the unarmed mission before its initial 90-day mandate expires at midnight (0400 GMT) on Friday.
Britain, France, Germany and the United States proposed in the vetoed resolution that Annan’s six-point peace plan be placed under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows the council to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention, according to Reuters.
Western council members have said they are talking about a threat of sanctions on Syria, not military intervention. Their vetoed resolution had contained a specific threat of sanctions if Syrian authorities did not stop using heavy weapons and withdraw troops from towns and cities within 10 days.
But Russia made clear days before the vote that it would block any resolution on Syria under Chapter 7, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov describing the threat of sanctions against Syria as “blackmail.”
Russia has also put forward a resolution to extend the U.N. mission for 90 days, but it does not contain a threat of sanctions. The Security Council initially approved the deployment of the U.N. observer mission, known as UNSMIS, to monitor a failed April 12 ceasefire under Annan's peace plan.
If the mission is renewed, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has recommended shifting the emphasis of the work of UNSMIS from the 300 unarmed military observers to civilian staff focusing on a political solution and issues including human rights.
UNSMIS suspended most of its monitoring activity on June 16 due to increased risk from rising violence.