Russia and China have vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government's deadly crackdown on protests. The resolution was introduced by Morocco and called for the regime to put an immediate stop to violence against protesters and for-Assad to hand over power to his deputy. The text also called for the formation of a unity government leading to "transparent and free elections," while stressing there will be no foreign military intervention in Syria.
The move was condemned by Human Rights Watch (HRW). In a statement from Ne York, the rights group said: "Vetoes by Russia and China are not only a slap in the face of the Arab League, they are also a betrayal of the Syrian people.The death toll has more than doubled in the last four months, and the risk is high that the Assad regime will see this double veto as a green light for even more violence."
Susan Rice, the US envoy to the UN, called the double veto "unforgivable". "Since these two members last vetoed the resolution an estimated 3,000 Syrians have been killed, with nearly 250 killed just yesterday,'' she said. Ahead of the vote, President Barack Obama accused the Syrian government of murdering civilians in an "unspeakable assault" in Homs, and demanded that Assad step down. "Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people. He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately."
Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, had said earlier on Saturday that if a resolution is put to a vote without taking Moscow's opinion into account, it will only lead to "another scandal" at the Security Council. Lavrov said Moscow had objections to what he termed "the imposition of the terms and conditions of the dialogue, which must be started without prejudging the results". He also said that "measures must be taken to influence not only the government ... but also the armed groups, because unless you do it both ways, you are taking sides in a civil war".
Sergei Lavrov will visit Damascus on Tuesday for talks with President Bashar al-Assad, together with the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (Mikhail) Fradkov. The aim is to 'obtain a political solution to the conflict," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov twittered.
Tunisia on Saturday announced it was expelling the Syrian ambassador and revoking recognition of Assad's government. The head of a committee of parliamentarians from Arab states said Arab countries should expel Syrian ambassadors and cut ties.
Lavrov defended his attitude by saying that armed groups were manipulating peacuful protesters and that one was taking sides if nothing was said or done about that. Russia. On Tuesday in Australia, he also said, that Russia did not want to interfere in Syria. It was ''not Russian policy to ask people to step down, regime change is not our profession,'' he told the national broadcaster ABC. ''It is up to the Syrians themselves to decide how to run the country, how to introduce the reforms, what kind reforms, without any outside interference. We're not a friend, we're not an ally of president Assad. We never said that president Assad remaining in power is the solution to the crisis."
I know that it might be somewhat tricky to say, but personally I believe that Russia (and China) had a point, in this situation where Assad has still the backing of large segments among the population (most Alawis, many Christians and many in the cities Damascus and Aleppo). Also the backbone of the army is still on his side and the opposition is far from united in this very fragmented country. However terrible the human rights situation at this moment may be, it is still not an all out civil war. But outside interference at this junction might push it over the threshold. (I'll co me back on this later).