US 'outraged' after Russia, China veto Syria UN resolution

US envoy to UN Rice says "the courageous people of Syria can now clearly see who on this Council supports their yearning for liberty."

United Nations Security Council 311 (R) (photo credit: ERIC THAYER / Reuters)
United Nations Security Council 311 (R)
(photo credit: ERIC THAYER / Reuters)
NEW YORK – Representatives of the United States and European governments expressed outrage after Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Tuesday that would have condemned the Syrian government for its tough crackdown on protesters, and Turkey vowed to pursue its own form of sanctions against the Assad regime.
The UN draft resolution received nine votes in favor and four abstentions. US Ambassador Susan Rice said Washington was outraged and called for “tough targeted sanctions” on Damascus.
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Russia’s ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow rejected the threat of sanctions on Syria and China’s envoy Li Baodong said Beijing opposed “interference in [Syria’s] internal affairs.”
Moscow had voiced concern that the resolution could have paved the way for a Libya-style military intervention.
Russia and China both want to limit Western influence in the Middle East.
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said the Security Council “utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge and a growing threat to regional peace and security.”
Rice said that several of the body’s members had “sought for weeks to weaken and strip bare any text that would have defended the lives of innocent civilians from Assad’s brutality.”
The veto was exercised by Russia and China on a “vastly watered-down text” that did not even mention sanctions, said Rice.
The US has repeatedly advocated sanctions as well as an arms embargo on the Assad regime.
In damning, pointed language, Rice said that “the courageous people of Syria can now clearly see who on this Council supports their yearning for liberty and universal human rights-and who does not.”
“And during this season of change, the people of the Middle East can now see clearly which nations have chosen to ignore their calls for democracy and instead prop up desperate, cruel dictators,” Rice said. “Those who oppose this resolution and give cover to a brutal regime will have to answer to the Syrian people – and, indeed, to people across the region who are pursuing the same universal aspirations.”
Rice bitterly noted that the Security Council “has not yet passed even a hortatory resolution to counter the Assad regime’s brutal oppression.”
“Let there be no doubt: this is not about military intervention,” Rice said. “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.”
Rice said that the “crisis in Syria will stay before the Security Council, and we will not rest until this Council rises to meet its responsibilities.”
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “disappointed” by Russia and China’s decision to veto the resolution.
“This will be seen in the region as a decision to side with a brutal regime rather than with the people of Syria, and will be a bitter blow to all those Syrians who have implored the international community to take a stand,” he said. Calling the resolution as drafted “entirely reasonable,” Hague said that it stressed the rejection of violence and that a political transition ought to be led by the Syrians.
The draft resolution, Hague made clear, was explicit that Security Council consideration of sanctions against Syria should not include military action.
“Those who blocked it,” Hague said of the resolution, “will have this action on their conscience.”
“This is a sad day for the Syrian people. It’s a sad day for the Security Council,” France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said, adding that France would continue to support the “just cause” of Syrians he said were fighting for freedom.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised action on his own despite the Security Council veto.
“Naturally the veto… cannot prevent sanctions,” Erdogan said from his visit to South Africa. “We will of necessity implement a package of sanctions.”
“The [Syrian] leadership is losing the respect of its people,” said Erdogan, whose country has given refuge to a Syrian colonel who has joined the anti-Assad revolt.
Erdogan said he will more formally delineate his sanction plans after he visits a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey within the week.
Assad has used tanks and troops to crush an uprising which erupted in March, inspired by regional revolts which toppled three North African leaders this year. The United Nations says 2,700 civilians have been killed.
Damascus blames the violence on foreign-backed armed groups which it says have killed at least 700 security personnel.