Russia, China veto rises world’s anger
Syrian soldiers who defected to join the FSA are seen in Khalidieh, near Homs. Al-Assad (inset) prays during a celebration of Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday. REUTERS photosOutrage grew yesterday after Russia and China blocked a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its crackdown on protests, with the opposition saying it handed the regime a “license to kill.”
Feb. 4’s rare double veto drew swift condemnation from world powers, with Washington saying it was “disgusted.” Russia blamed Western powers for the Security Council’s failure to pass the resolution, saying they had failed to make an additional effort for consensus.
“The authors of the draft Syria resolution, unfortunately, did not want to undertake an extra effort and come to a consensus,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov wrote on Twitter. The failed resolution followed widespread disgust at what the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) labeled a “massacre” overnight Feb. 3 in the central flashpoint city of Homs and a spiraling death toll.
Activists and residents had reported more than 200 civilian deaths, including women and children, during a massive assault by regime forces there. On the ground, activists Feb. 5 reported another 60 people killed in Syria. The SNC said at least 260 civilians were killed, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said about 100 women and children were among its toll of the 237 dead.
Damascus denied responsibility, blaming the deaths on opposition rebels seeking to influence the Security Council debate. The SNC said in a hard-hitting statement that “Syrians and others around the world” had looked to the Security Council to issue a strongly worded resolution. “The SNC holds both governments accountable for the escalation of killings and genocide, and considers this irresponsible step a license for the Syrian regime to kill without being held accountable,” it said of Russia and China. United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Russia and China “remain steadfast in their willingness to sell out the Syrian people and shield a craven tyrant.” The veto controversy comes ahead of a Feb. 7 visit to Damascus by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Chief Mikhail Fradkov for talks with Bashar al-Assad.
“Russia strongly intends to achieve a rapid stabilization of the situation in Syria through the rapid implementation of much-needed democratic reforms,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Feb. 5. “It is with this aim... that Sergei Lavrov [is] visiting Damascus on Feb. 7.”
U.S. President Barack Obama denounced what he called an “unspeakable assault.” “Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now. He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately,” Obama said in a statement.
While Russia and China used their diplomatic muscle for the second time in four months to block a resolution condemning the violence, the other 13 countries in the 15-member council voted for it. The resolution had been proposed by European and Arab nations to give strong backing to an Arab League plan to end the crackdown.
Russia’s U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin justified the veto by saying the proposed resolution “sent an unbalanced signal to the Syrian parties.” His Chinese counterpart Li Baodong said pushing through such “a vote when parties are still seriously divided... will not help maintain the unity and authority of the Security Council, or help resolve the issue.”
Britain is “appalled” at the veto, said its U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy “strongly deplores” the veto, his office said. French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said yesterday that Moscow cannot hold out “indefinitely” in the face of global opinion. “Russia can hold out for 15 days, two months, but it cannot hold out indefinitely,” Longuet told RTL radio.
Cut ties with Syria, urges Tunisia PM
Tunisia yesterday urged other Arab nations to follow its lead after it said Feb. 4 it was expelling Syria’s ambassador and withdrawing its recognition of the Assad government.
“The Syrian people do not expect from us today long statements ... they are expecting deeds, they are expecting concrete measures ... the very least we can do is to cut all relations to the Syria regime,” said Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali yesterday.
Jebali spoke at an annual gathering of security officials in Germany, where Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman also said Russia and China bear moral responsibility for killings in Syria and urged governments to expel Syrian ambassadors.
“Those two countries [Russia and China] bear the moral and human responsibility for these massacres,” Karman said.
“I urge you in the name of the peaceful rebels to expel Syrian ambassadors from your countries and I urge you to call back your ambassadors in Damascus,” Karman said to delegates. “That is the minimum you can do to punish this regime, and I also urge you to take the necessary measures to protect the Syrian people.”
Jordanian Islamists yesterday called on Muslims and Arabs to boycott Russian and Chinese products.
“All Muslims and Arabs should boycott Russian and Chinese products in order to support the Syrian people,” Hammam Said, the leader of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, said on the group’s website. The world’s Islamic body, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said in a statement it was “deeply sorry” about the vetoes, expressing “the hope that the failure of the Security Council to reach a resolution over the Syrian crisis would not lead to more casualties.”
Compiled from AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.