Syria escapes UN sanctions, but not Europe’s threats
NEW YORK - European powers vowed Wednesday to find new ways to counter Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's deadly crackdown on protesters after Russia and China vetoed their UN Security Council condemnation.
The British, French and German foreign ministers all said new pressure would be put on the Syrian government, while Russia defended its veto of a watered-down resolution which had threatened unspecified "measures" if the violence goes on.
Nine countries backed the resolution in a vote late Tuesday, but Russia and China used their veto as permanent members of the Security Council.
Brazil, India, Lebanon and South Africa abstained.
The meeting ended in acrimony with US ambassador Susan Rice leading her delegation out after Syria's ambassador said the United States was linked to "genocide."
Rice said opposition had come from countries "who would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people."
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague called the double veto "deeply mistaken and regrettable."
"We will redouble our efforts to work with other nations to increase the pressure on the regime wherever we can, and we assure the people of Syria that they will not be forgotten," Hague said.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, whose country had drawn up the resolution, called the vote "a sad day for the Security Council. The Syrian democrats' struggle for freedom is a just struggle.
"France will continue to support it firmly, along with all those countries that so wish," he said.
"Germany will continue to push, both internationally and especially within the European Union, for a clear position and pressure on the Syrian regime," declared German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
With no end in sight to the Syria bloodshed, which the UN says has left at least 2,700 dead in seven months, diplomats said more action could be taken.
"The crisis in Syria will stay before the Security Council. We will not rest until the council rises to meet its responsibilities," said Rice.
Russia defended its veto decision and its links with Assad's government.
"We are not advocates of the Bashar al-Assad regime at all," Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin told reporters after the vote.
"We are talking to the government in Damascus in a very demanding tone of voice, telling them what needs to be done in order to get out of this crisis.
"It is our firm conviction that we are not siding with anybody in Damascus. We are siding with the Syrian people, because we think that in the Syrian people... there are not just the people who are trying to topple the government, but there are those, and the jury still out about who is in majority, who want to see peaceful change," Churkin said.
Churkin highlighted fears that the resolution could be used for military action against Syria. Russia, China and others still accuse NATO of abusing UN resolutions on Libya to launch air strikes this year.
"Let there be no doubt: this is not about military intervention," responded Rice.
"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."
Churkin in turn called the US envoy's comments "amusing" and highlighted economic losses his country had suffered from other embargoes.
China also strongly rejected the European resolution.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the draft was intended to "blindly impose pressure" on Syria. "This would not help to ease the situation," the official added.