Despite the appeals for united and concerted action to help end the escalating violence in Syria, the Security Council today failed to adopt a resolution that would have threatened sanctions on Damascus, owing to the negative votes of permanent members Russia and China.
Eleven of the Council’s 15 members voted in favour of the resolution’s text, while two others – Pakistan and South Africa – abstained. A veto by any one of the Council’s five permanent members means a resolution cannot be adopted.
A statement issued by Mr. Annan’s spokesperson said that the envoy is “disappointed” that the Council could not unite and take the strong and concerted action he had urged and hoped for. “He believes that the voice of the Council is much more powerful when its members act as one.”
“The United Kingdom is appalled at the veto of Russia and China,” said Britain’s UN envoy Mark Lyall Grant, whose country took the lead in writing up the resolution.
The United States condemned the move as a “highly regrettable decision”.
Although the resolution sought to impose non-military sanctions, it incorporated Chapter VII of the UN charter which allows the council to authorise actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention. Western council members have said they are talking about a threat of sanctions on Syria, not military intervention. ”What we’re seeing is a cycle of talks, votes, vetoes of condemnation and no one seems to be coming with a plan … that can break this cycle at the moment.”
The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 16 months ago.
The Council is also expected to make a decision today on the future of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), which recently suspended its regular patrols due to the escalating violence on the ground and whose 90-day mandate expires tomorrow.
The Mission was set up to monitor the cessation of violence in Syria, as well as monitor and support the full implementation of the six-point peace plan put forward by Mr. Annan.
A bomb attack on the National Security Headquarters building in Damascus yesterday killed and wounded several Government officials. Among those killed were Syria’s defence minister and his deputy. There were also reports of clashes between Syrian Government forces and opposition fighters in several neighbourhoods of the city.