By Wallace Witkowski, MarketWatch –
SAN FRANCISCO — Russia and China both vetoed a United Nations resolution against Syria on Saturday during a rare weekend session of the United Nations Security Council.
It was the second time the two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have vetoed a resolution against Syria. The countries first exercised their veto power on a resolution against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in October.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said she was “disgusted” by the vetoes and that Russia and China were standing by “empty arguments” to prevent the U.N. from carrying out its mission to stabilize the situation in Syria and the surrounding region.
Any of the Security Council’s five permanent members — China, Russia, the U.S., France and the U.K. — can veto a proposal. The council also has 10 nonpermanent members elected by the General Assembly to two-year terms.
Earlier Saturday, President Barack Obama condemned recent violence against Syrian citizens and called on Assad to step down.
“Yesterday, the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help,” Obama said in a statement.
Human rights groups estimate that more than 200 people were killed Friday alone when Syrian troops fired mortar shells into civilian areas in Homs, Syria’s third largest city. At the U.N., Syria accused opposition groups of the attack in order to swing the Security Council vote.
“Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now,” Obama said. “He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately.”
The draft resolution had been prepared by elected Security Council member Morocco and supported the League of Arab States’ security plan calling for an immediate end to violence by all parties and a peaceful political resolution of the crisis. The draft resolution endorses the Arab League’s suggestion that Assad step down to facilitate a peaceful political resolution and the use of League monitors to oversee the process.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday the draft resolution against Syria makes too few demands of armed groups that oppose Assad and interferes too much with Syria’s domestic affairs, according to media reports.
As they did in October, Russia and China argued that language in the draft resolution might be used to force a regime change in Syria and endorse a military intervention.