Russia vetoes UN Syria sanctions
Wounded civilians in Aleppo. Source: Wikimedia
It is Russia’s seventh veto to protect the Damascus government from UN action. The vote was one of the first UN disagreements between Russia and the US since Donald Trump took office in January.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin called the draft resolution as “totally inappropriate”.
Russia said the resolution would harm UN-led peace talks in Geneva, which began last week.
A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by any of the five permanent members to be adopted. There are 10 non-permanent members on two-year terms in addition to the five permanent members. Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, criticised the Sino-Russian veto.
She accused Russia and China of putting “their friends in the Assad regime ahead of our global security”.
“It is a sad day on the security council when members start making excuses for other member states killing their own people. The world is definitely a more dangerous place.”
Analysts will point to the hard-hitting statement as further evidence of an end to Trump’s honeymoon period with Russia.
Haley has also recently condemned what she called Russia’s “aggressive actions” in eastern Ukraine, vowed to maintain sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and, in her Senate confirmation hearing, claimed that Russia was guilty of war crimes in Syria.
Her comments on Russia have contrasted the more conciliatory language of Trump, who says he wants to increase cooperation with the Kremlin. Haley has echoed the Obama administration’s rhetoric, as well as the concerns of Republicans in Congress who distrust Russia.
The resolution, proposed by the UK and France months ago and endorsed by the US last week, would have imposed sanctions on several Syrian military commanders and entities for having dropped chlorine-filled barrel bombs on opposition-held territory in 2014 and 2015, according to a UN panel.
Russia’s deputy ambassador to the organisation Vladimir Safronkov was bombastic in his response, describing the criticism as “outrageous” and warned that “God will judge you.”
Sherine Tadros of Amnesty International announced: “By vetoing this resolution, Russia and China have displayed a callous disregard for the lives of millions of Syrians.”
Physicians for Human Rights, which promotes treatment for chemical attack victims said the Security Council had “shown itself impotent to halt the terrible scourge of chemical weapons”.
It said: “Shame on the Russian Federation, China and all those who enable the Syrian government’s attempts to escape accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”