Washington — U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the U.N. Security Council February 4 that “the United States is disgusted” by the failure of the council to pass a resolution that backed an Arab League peace plan to end escalating violence in Syria and that urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
China and Russia, both permanent members of the Security Council, vetoed the peace plan resolution, while the United States and 12 other members that included Britain and France voted for it in a rare weekend session.
“The United States is disgusted that a couple of members of this council continue to prevent us from fulfilling our sole purpose here — addressing an ever-deepening crisis in Syria and a growing threat to regional peace and security,” Rice said shortly after the council voted.
A Security Council resolution can be blocked by a single veto from the five permanent members, which are Great Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. However a double veto by Security Council permanent members is rare.
The vote was prompted, even in the face of Russian opposition, by continued violence in the city of Homs and amid reports that nearly 250 civilian Syrians were killed February 3 by government forces. The United Nations estimates that more than 5,400 civilians have been killed in the nearly 11-month-old civil strife as the Assad regime conducted a military crackdown on all civilian protests.
Rice, who is the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, said the text of the resolution did not include sanctions, an arms embargo or a call for international intervention in Syria, but only for a plan to halt the violence and end the Assad regime.
“These members [China and Russia] stand behind empty arguments and individual interests, while delaying and seeking to strip bare any text that would pressure Assad to change his actions. This intransigence is even more shameful when you consider that at least one of these members continues to deliver weapons to Assad,” Rice said.
At an international security conference in Munich, Germany, February 4, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the United States and European nations “are united, alongside the Arab League, in demanding an end to the bloodshed and a democratic future for Syria.” Clinton met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the conference to discuss the then-pending vote of the Security Council. Clinton addressed the Security Council on the resolution January 31.
The Arab League peace plan called for Assad’s regime to withdraw its military forces from residential areas, stop acts of violence against civilians, release opposition prisoners arrested because of the current unrest, end all fighting and bloodshed, delegate power to the vice president and allow creation of a national government of unity. Assad had signed a protocol with the Arab League pledging to meet the conditions set in the plan.
Before the vote was taken in New York, President Obama said that 30 years after Assad’s father “massacred tens of thousands” of Syrian civilians in Hama, the current Assad regime has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity.
“The Syrian regime’s policy of maintaining power by terrorizing its people only indicates its inherent weakness and inevitable collapse,” Obama said. “Assad has no right to lead Syria, and has lost all legitimacy with his people and the international community.”
Obama pledged continued U.S. support for the Syrian people and vowed to continue working to help them build a better future in Syria.
“Every government has the responsibility to protect its citizens, and any government that brutalizes and massacres its people does not deserve to govern,” Obama said.