Hopes for resolution to Syria crises fade
HOPES OF a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Syria faded yesterday when Russia and China vetoed a British-sponsored UN Security Council resolution.
The resolution would have imposed UN sanctions on Damascus for using heavy weapons against civilian populations and maintaining troops in population centres.
Britain’s ambassador to the UN Mark Lyall Grant told the council he was “appalled by the decision of Russia and China to veto this resolution aimed at ending the bloodshed in Syria”.
The US ambassador Susan Rice called it a “dark day” and said “the message it sends is that two permanent members of the council are prepared to defend [President Bashar al-] Assad to the bitter end.”
Mr Assad appeared on Syrian television for the first time since a bomb at the national security headquarters killed his defence minister, brother-in-law and interior minister on Wednesday. The television footage gave no indication of the dictator’s whereabouts, but showed him with the new defence minister. He is rumoured to have left Damascus, which has seen heavy fighting all week in a conflict which the Red Cross now calls a civil war.
The Local Co-ordination Committees of Syria reported at least 134 people were killed yesterday, including 40 in the suburbs of Damascus and 15 inside the capital. As many as 17,000 people are estimated to have died in 17 months of unrest. Reports from Damascus yesterday spoke of army snipers on rooftops, helicopter gunships targeting rebels and smoke rising from residential areas.
This is the third time in 10 months that Russia and China have vetoed resolutions that criticised or sought to impose sanctions on the Assad regime. Eleven security council members voted for yesterday’s resolution, including the US, Britain and France. Pakistan and South Africa abstained.
The mandate of the 300-strong UNSMIS observer mission will expire at midnight tonight unless an extension is passed. Britain and Pakistan both fielded new draft resolutions yesterday that would prolong the mission for 30 days. The monitors’ activities were suspended over a month ago because of violence.