Western and Arab countries responded with outrage Sunday after Russia and China
vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have backed an Arab plan
urging Syrian President Bashar Assad to give up power.
The vote came a
day after activists say Syrian forces bombarded the city of Homs, killing more
than 200 people in the worst night of bloodshed of the 11-month
Human rights organizations reported on Sunday that over 50
people had been killed during the day by Syrian army forces.
President Nicolas Sarkozy said France was consulting with Arab and European
countries to create a contact group on Syria to find a solution to its
“France is not giving up,” Sarkozy said late Saturday, adding he
was in touch with Arab and European partners to create a “Friends of the Syrian
People Group” that would marshal international support to implement the Arab
Sarkozy did not give further details on the initiative, but
last year he set up a Libya contact group to create a political roadmap backed
by international players as part of efforts to oust Muammar Gaddafi. Western
powers have ruled out a Libya-style military intervention in
Russia said Saturday’s resolution was biased and would have meant
taking sides in a civil war. Syria is Moscow’s rare ally in the Middle East,
home to a Russian naval base and a customer for its arms.
was widely seen as following Russia’s lead.
US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton had met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before Saturday’s vote
for what US officials called “vigorous” talks.
Lavrov said he would
travel to Syria on Tuesday along with Foreign Intelligence Service Director
Mikhail Fradkov for talks with Assad.
Lavrov revealed nothing about their
purpose, but a Foreign Ministry statement on Sunday indicated he and Fradkov
would at least press Assad to make compromises.
“What happened yesterday
at the United Nations was a travesty,” Clinton said on Sunday. “Those countries
that refused to support the Arab League plan bear full responsibility for
protecting the brutal machine in Damascus.”
She added: “Faced with a
neutered Security Council, we have to redouble our efforts outside of the United
Nations with those allies and partners who support the Syrian people’s right to
have a better future.”
Clinton also said Washington would work with other
nations to try to tighten “regional and national” sanctions “to dry up the
sources of funding and the arms shipments that are keeping the regime’s war
“We will work to expose those who are still funding the
regime and sending it weapons that are used against defenseless Syrians,
including women and children,” she said. “We will work with the friends of a democratic Syria around the world to support the opposition’s peaceful political
plans for change.”
Clinton did not give further details on which nations
might band together, or precisely what they might do, but it appeared that the
United States might seek to organize a “Friends of Syria” group to act together
given the inability to make progress at the United Nations because of Russia and
An official from Assad’s Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, said the
extremist group is prepared to attack Israel if Western powers interfere in
The unnamed official told Kuwait’s Al-Rai
won’t allow Assad and his regime to fall, even if the price is a military
confrontation with Israel.”
“Hezbollah supports a compromise solution
with the current Syrian regime, not without it,” he added. “This would come
through a solution based on reforms that would satisfy the regime and
opposition, while also returning security to the country.”
said Hezbollah and its patron Iran are providing weapons to Assad to help in the
crackdown. Hezbollah is believed to own over 30,000 missiles, some of which can
reach as far as Tel Aviv.
Speaking on Hezbollah’s Al- Manar television
late Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said any military
intervention in Syria would lead to a regional “explosion.”
confident any military action against Syria will blow up the entire region... a
military intervention does not solve any problem, especially because the Syrian
situation differs from that of Libya.”
Salehi said Syria’s “sole role is
fighting Israel,” and that Damascus “is now paying the price for its
“Assad’s fall is inevitable – there’s no way this tyrant can
survive,” said Iranian-born journalist and blogger Saba Farzan. Still, she said,
“each day that passes without strong action against the butcher Assad and his
regime means more innocent victims among the Syrian people.”
losing its only Arab ally it’ll be the Islamic Republic that is doomed to fall,
as well,” she told The Jerusalem Post
On the ground in
Syria, residents of Homs’s-battered Baba Amro district denounced the
Russian-Chinese veto, with some chanting, “Death rather than disgrace.” One
resident said, “Now we will show Assad. We’re coming, Damascus.
today we will show Assad what an armed gang is.” Assad has called his opponents
“armed gangs” and “terrorists” steered from abroad.
accounts are accurate, the bombardment of Homs on Friday night was one of the
bloodiest episodes of the Arab uprisings, and the deadliest incident in the
Syrian activist groups gave varying tolls above 200
killed, saying tanks and artillery blasted the Khalidiya neighborhood of Homs, a
restive city that has become a heartland of resistance to Assad’s
Activist Omar Shakir, in the Baba Amro district of Homs, said there
was new shelling on Sunday afternoon and three people had been
Also Sunday, Syria’s highestlevel army defector said the
military’s unity is severely undermined, and could collapse in a matter of
“The army will collapse during February,” Gen. Mustafa al- Sheikh
told Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
“The reasons are the shortage of Syrian
army personnel, which even before March 15 last year did not exceed 65 percent.
The proportion of equipment that was combatready did not exceed that, due to a
shortage of spare parts.”
Diplomatic condemnations against Russia and
China came from virtually all quarters.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary
William Hague said Moscow and Beijing had turned their backs on the Arab world,
and his French counterpart Alain Juppe said they “carried a terrible
responsibility in the eyes of the world and Syrian people.”
All 13 other
members of the Security Council voted to back the resolution, which would have
“fully supported” an Arab League plan under which Assad should cede powers to a
deputy, withdraw troops from towns, and begin a transition to
The Western criticism was echoed in the Middle East, where
Arab powers like Saudi Arabia and non-Arab Turkey have turned decisively against
Assad in recent months.
“Unfortunately, yesterday in the UN the Cold War
logic continues,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
and China did not vote based on the existing realities but more a reflexive
attitude against the West.”
Arab League head Nabil Elaraby said the body
still intends to build support for its plan. The veto “does not negate that
there is clear international support for the resolutions of the Arab League,” he
said in a statement.
The Security Council’s sole Arab member, Morocco,
voiced “great regret and disappointment” at the veto. Ambassador Mohammed
Loulichki said the Arabs had no intention of abandoning their
Burhan Ghalioun, head of the opposition umbrella Syrian National
Council, called Moscow and Beijing’s veto “a new license to kill from these two
capitals for Bashar Assad and his criminal regime, which just yesterday killed
The SNC said it held Moscow and Beijing “responsible for the
escalating acts of killing and genocide.” Protesters stormed Russia’s embassy in
Libya’s capital Tripoli on Sunday, climbing on the roof and tearing down the
Men held up a banner saying: “Libyan revolutionaries are ready to
fight with their brothers in Syria.”
Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin,
accused the resolution’s backers of “calling for regime change, pushing the
opposition towards power and not stopping their provocations and feeding armed
“Some influential members of the international community –
unfortunately, including those sitting around this table – from the very
beginning of the Syrian process have been undermining the opportunity for a
political settlement,” he said. Moscow is sending Foreign Minister Lavrov to
Damascus on Tuesday.
Syrian UN envoy Bashar Ja’afari criticized the
resolution and its sponsors, which included Saudi Arabia and seven other Arab
states, saying nations “that prevent women from attending a soccer match” had no
right to preach democracy to Syria.
He also denied that Syrian forces
killed hundreds of civilians in Homs, saying “no sensible person” would launch
such an attack the night before the Security Council was set to discuss his
State television showed live footage of Assad on Sunday praying
with Sunni clerics and listening to Koranic verses in a Damascus mosque to mark
the birthday of Islam’s prophet Muhammad.Jerusalem Post staff
contributed to this report.