WASHINGTON (MCT) — One by one, outraged U.N. Security Council members lashed out at the decision by Russia and China to veto a resolution that threatened sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
The vote results — 11 member states in favor, two abstaining and the two vetoes — were predictable, given Russia’s and China’s long-standing unease with international actions they interpreted as pushing for swift regime change rather than a gradual political transition to resolve Syria’s 16-month crisis.
However, the vetoes foretell a high-stakes showdown: the mandate for U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan’s monitoring mission expires Friday, and the United States had threatened to vote against extending the mandate if Russia failed to green-light the draft resolution.
It was unclear Thursday morning whether the Obama administration would follow through on the threats, which would deal a death blow to Annan’s problem-plagued monitoring mission.
The resolution the Security Council considered Thursday, a day behind schedule because of a deadly bombing that killed top officials in Damascus, gave Assad 10 days to stop shelling residential areas in its combat with insurgents or face international sanctions.
Representatives from Britain, France, Germany, Pakistan and other nations lambasted the vetoes as a missed opportunity to save lives in a conflict that’s already left more than 16,000 people dead, according to human rights groups.
Russia and China have sought to avoid a repeat of the Libyan experience of foreign intervention turning into a regime-change operation in the battle against Moammar Gadhafi’s now-deposed government. Critic say their insistence on a gradual negotiated solution only buys more time for a regime that’s shown no signs of enacting real reforms.