Russia, which sells Syria weapons and has its only military base outside the former Soviet Union in the Syrian port of Tartus, defended itself against growing criticism that it’s protecting its own interests in shielding Assad.
The Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said that, while he “would certainly agree tragic events are happening” in Syria, his country had “made an honest effort.” He said the Arab League, which in November imposed sanctions on Assad, “shall not count on the Council” for endorsement of a plan that imposes a timeline on when Assad should leave.
China said it voted against the resolution because the declaration may further complicate events in Syria.
Any move to “put undue emphasis on pressuring the Syrian government, prejudge the result of the dialogue or impose any solution” won’t help resolve the Syrian issue, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on its website today.
“Any further blood that flows will be on their hands,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said in the council after the vote. The U.S. was “disgusted” by the vetoes and accused Russia and China of standing “behind empty arguments and individual interests,” she said.
Russia’s alignment with Syria puts at stake the Kremlin’s relationship with oil-rich Gulf States led by Qatar that asked the Security Council to endorse their plan to convince Assad to delegate his powers to a deputy to pave way for elections.
Before votes were cast, Russia announced Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would visit Damascus on Feb. 7 to hold talks with Assad. That plan remains in place, Churkin said.