Russia and China thwarted a Security Council proposal to condemn Syria and to mount pressure on the regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad with economic sanctions.
Nine Security Council members, including the United States, United Kingdom, and France, voted for the proposal, while four members abstained.
The proposal put forward by the French delegation has been circulating among the delegations in the past month. Lately, it had been reported that the proposal had been softened, and the proposal voted on Tuesday did not include any sanctions, but rather included warnings that sanctions would be put forward if the Assad regime continued oppressing its protesting citizens.
Despite this, Russia and China opposed the proposal, and due to their veto power had the proposal suppressed.
According to a report recently published by the UN, 2,700 Syrian citizens have been killed by Syrian security forces during the suppression of protests that have engulfed the country in recent months.
The U.S. representative to the UN, Susan E. Rice, said, following the vote: “[Syria] is on the wrong side of history. It is not going to get what it seeks by the continual repression and killing and imprisoning of its people. It doesn't work and it won't succeed, and sooner or later that will be self-evident.”
Rice said Washington was outraged and that it was time for the Security Council to adopt "tough targeted sanctions" on Syria.
Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations told Haaretz: “The result of the vote at the Security Council should be seen as an embarrassment for the council and especially for Russia and China.”
“When the time comes, the Syrian people will remember who took which side in their time of need,” Prosor said. “Those standing on the sidelines in this critical hour for the Syrian people will have to have the continued reign of the Damascus dictator weigh heavy on their conscience."
Assad had managed to maneuver Syria into being courted by the West while maintaining an alliance with Iran and backing militant groups, but the crackdown, during which he has sent tanks and troops into towns and cities across the country to crush demonstrations, has left him with few stalwart allies.
The Syrian economy is reeling from U.S. and European Union sanctions on the small but key oil sector, which is linked to the Assad family and ruling elites.
Foreign currency reserves are under pressure, forcing Syria last month to impose a sweeping ban on imports in a effort to maintain the reserves. But the ban was rescinded on Tuesday, after a spike in prices and disquiet among an influential merchant class that has been backing Assad.
Russia and China have major oil concessions in Syria and do not want to see Western influence in the Middle East spread.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council that his country was firmly opposed to the threat of sanctions against Syria, reiterating concerns that passing the resolution on Syria could have opened the door to a Libya-style military intervention.
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