Security Council Fails to Adopt Draft Resolution on Syria as Russian Federation, China Veto Text Supporting Arab League’s Proposed Peace Plan

4 February 2012
SC/10536

Security Council Fails to Adopt Draft Resolution on Syria as Russian Federation, China Veto Text Supporting Arab League’s Proposed Peace Plan

4 February 2012
Security Council
SC/10536
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6711th Meeting (AM)

Security Council Fails to Adopt Draft Resolution on Syria as Russian Federation,

China Veto Text Supporting Arab League’s Proposed Peace Plan

The Russian Federation and China vetoed today a Security Council draft resolution that would have demanded that all parties in Syria — both Government forces and armed opposition groups — stop all violence and reprisals, ending days of intense negotiations in New York as diplomats laboured to bring a halt to the deadly 10-month crackdown on anti-Government protests in the Middle Eastern country.

Supported by the 13 other Council members, the text would have expressed grave concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria and profound concern over the deaths of thousands of people.  It would have condemned widespread gross violations of human rights and “all violence, irrespective of where it comes from”, while demanding that the Syrian Government implement, “without delay”, the elements of a plan set out by the League of Arab States on 22 January.

That plan, outlined in the Council’s text, would have demanded that Syria immediately cease all violence and protect its population; release all persons detained arbitrarily; withdraw all military and armed forces from cities and towns; and guarantee the freedom to hold peaceful demonstrations.  It would have called for “an inclusive Syrian-led political process conducted in an environment free from violence, fear, intimidation ad extremism, and aimed at effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people”.

Explaining his negative vote, the representative of the Russian Federation said that the draft resolution sought to send an “unbalanced” message to Syria.  Moreover, no proposal had been made to end attacks by armed groups, or their association with extremists.  Stressing that the violence and bloodshed must end immediately, he announced that the Russian Government was taking direct action by sending high-level officials to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on 7 February.  Yet, while the Russian Federation was committed to finding a solution, some influential members of the international community had been undermining the possibility of a peaceful settlement by advocating regime change, he said.

The Councils’ three other permanent members — France, the United Kingdom and the United States — were outraged by the rejection of the text, believing it represented the best compromise position.  “It is a sad day for the Council, a sad day for Syrians, and a sad day for all friends of democracy,” said France’s representative, who was among those speakers who noted that today marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Hama massacre.  “What message is now being sent to the Syrian people and to all the victims of human rights violations?”  Denouncing those who had obstructed action under the “obviously false” belief that the aim of the text was military intervention, he said history would judge harshly those who had prevented the Council from lending its support to the Arab League’s efforts.

Saying that her delegation was “disgusted” that the text had been blocked, the representative of the United States explained that the Council had been held hostage for months while the same two members had held fast to “empty arguments and individual interests”, trying to “strip bare” any measure that would call on the Syrian regime to change its tactics.  The draft’s co-sponsors had truly “gone the last mile” to accommodate the concerns of Council members regarding the use of force.  Yet, “wrecking amendments” proposed at the last hour to delay action further were reprehensible, she said, especially because they had come as the Assad regime was ratcheting up its “horrific campaign” in Homs.

Against that backdrop, the international community must help to end “this abhorrent brutality”, especially since some Council members continued to “sell out the Syrian people to shield a craven tyrant”, she continued, warning that any further bloodshed would be on their hands.  Applauding the growing number of Syrians who were taking to the streets to speak out against President Assad’s regime, she said that, after today, they would be able to look at the Security Council and see clearly which nations had stood behind their calls for democracy and which had chosen to “prop up desperate dictators”.

Syria’s representative, taking the floor at the end of the meeting, said the statements made by some Council members betrayed their “true hostile intentions” against his country, and would “fan the flames” of violence and bloodshed.  Indeed, Syria was in the midst of a crisis “manufactured” by States that did not wish it well, and which gave money, arms and media coverage to the armed terrorist groups that were killing, abducting and intimidating Syrian civilians.  The draft resolution that had failed to pass today emphasized the importance of dialogue, which Syria supported, he said.  However, some of the parties to the conflict refused to engage in dialogue as all Council members knew well.

He said that Syria sought dialogue that was inclusive of all parties, under “the roof of its homeland”, emphasizing that such a dialogue would be developed in Syria and by Syrians.  They did not need to await “instructions on democracy” from others.  Saying that he had hoped that the situation would remain “in the Syrian household” and within the Arab structure, he stressed that the rush by some parties to bring the issue to the Council was a cause of great concern.  The United Nations had indeed become an “instrument of war”, he said, adding that those parties were waging wars in order to gain control of geographic locations and lucrative resources.

The Council’s latest attempt at consensus followed days of intense negotiations in the wake of its ministerial-level briefing on Tuesday, when it heard from Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber bin Muhammad Al-Thani, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar and Chairman of the Arab League’s Ministerial Council, and Nabil Elaraby, the League’s Secretary-General.  While Council members were split over the path to action on Syria, those two regional officials had called for decisive action, with Sheik Hamad stressing:  “Our efforts and initiatives have been in vain for the Syrian Government has not made any sincere effort to cooperate with our efforts, and, unfortunately, its only solution has been to kill its own people.”  (See Press Release SC/10534.)

Also speaking today were the representatives of Morocco, Germany, Portugal, United Kingdom, Colombia, Guatemala, India, China, Pakistan, South Africa, Azerbaijan and Togo.

The meeting began at 11:50 a.m. and ended at 1:25 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in the Middle East.

Statements

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco), expressing great regret and disappointment that the Council had been unable to adopt the draft resolution submitted by his delegation three days ago, said he hoped that the outcome would not provide a pretext for “backsliding” in Syria, and for a rise in the number of civilian casualties there.  He recalled that, in addressing the Council recently, the Chairman of the League of Arab States Steering Committee and the League’s Secretary-General had urgently requested the Council to come to the support of a regional organization that had come up with a “bold, complete and integral” initiative that was based on dialogue and international understanding, in order to reach a peaceful resolution of a situation that was only getting worse.

He said that his delegation, as the Arab member of the Security Council, and in close cooperation with other members and non-members alike, had made continual efforts to achieve a consensus that might enable the Council to “speak with a single voice” on the issue of Syria.  By those efforts, the Council had endeavoured to reach a common agreement based around the immediate end to all hostilities and acts of violence.  Now that the Council had been unable to reach a decision to support the Arab initiative, that road map remained the only tool that the Arab League should continue to use.  “We are feeling terrible pain because of the horrible events we are all aware of,” he said, expressing hope that the Syrian people might achieve a democratic State that enjoyed understanding and concord.

GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) said he had witnessed once again, with great sadness and concern, the use of a double veto against a draft resolution on Syria.  “It is a sad day for the Council, a sad day for Syrians, and a sad day for all friends of democracy,” he said.  Since today was the anniversary of the massacre at Hama and tomorrow that of the massacre at Homs, history had now compounded that shame.  What message was now being sent to the Syrian population and to all victims of human rights violations? he asked.  The Secretary-General and the Human Rights Council continued to call upon the Security Council to take action to end the crimes against humanity being committed in Syria, but it had nevertheless remained silent.  Likewise, the Secretary-General of the Arab League had called on the Council to support its action, while the Prime Minister of Qatar had pleaded for a solution that would constitute the sole credible voice for a peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis.

He recalled that Morocco had presented a draft resolution proposing that the Council support regional efforts.  While the text had enjoyed wide support both within and outside the Council, two permanent members were systematically obstructing all such plans, in full knowledge of the tragic consequences of their actions.  For 10 months, proponents of action in Syria had been accused of seeking to overthrow the regime and preparing a military intervention.  That was obviously false, he stressed.  Indeed, history would judge harshly those who had prevented the Council from lending its support to the Arab League’s efforts.  By doing so, they had aligned themselves with a regime that was massacring its own people.  But while today was a sad day, efforts would not stop.  “We have no right to abandon the Syrian people to its fate,” he said, adding that the Council would continue to work with the Arab League, and the European Union would increase pressure on Syria by imposing further sanctions.  Finally, he commended the Syrian people, saying they had courageously “not lost sight” of their fight for freedom.

PETER WITTIG ( Germany) said that his delegation and the overwhelming majority of Council members had supported the Morocco-led draft resolution presented to the Council on behalf of the Arab League.  Yet, two members had opposed the text, and as a result, after more than 5,000 deaths, including 400 children, countless illegal detentions, torture and abuse in Syria, the Council had again failed to undertake its responsibilities and live up to its mandate.  “The people of Syria and the region have been let down again, and this is a crying shame,” he said, adding that today’s failure was even more tragic because it came on the thirtieth anniversary of the Hama massacre, and in the wake of “one of the bloodiest days of the Arab Spring”.

The Council, he continued, should urge President Assad to stop the killing.  His regime must end the violence immediately and halt all gross human rights violations.  Recalling that the Syrian Government had accepted many of the draft’s demands on 19 December, he said none of those commitments had been met, as reported to the Council by Arab League officials earlier this week.  Indeed, at its earlier meeting, the Council had heard a “remarkable” plea from the League not to let the Syrian people down.  The text vetoed today had aimed to support a Syrian-led solution, and made no reference to an arms embargo or other sanctions, he noted.  It did not contain calls for an international investigation into human rights violations, as Germany would have wanted.  Instead, it supported a political framework set out by the Arab League and a transition to a democratic and pluralistic system.  “This is what it’s all about — allowing the people of Syria to determine their own political future,” he said.  Yet, regrettably, today’s decision would only spur further violence and make it harder to find a political solution.

SUSAN RICE ( United States) said her delegation was “disgusted” that two members continued to prevent the Council from fulfilling its sole purpose:  addressing a deepening crisis in Syria and a growing threat to regional peace and security.  Indeed, the Council had been held hostage for months while those members had held fast to empty arguments and individual interests.  Their ongoing intransigence “is even more shameful when you consider that at least one of them continues to deliver weapons to Assad”, she said, pointing out that, while many countries had imposed or called for tough targeted sanctions, “this text didn’t even do that”.  It merely supported an Arab League plan for a peaceful solution to the crisis.

She went on to say that the draft’s co-sponsors had truly “gone the last mile” to accommodate the concerns of Council members regarding the use of force.  Yet, “wrecking amendments” proposed at the last hour to delay action further were reprehensible, especially because they had come as the Assad regime was ratcheting up its “horrific campaign” in Homs, murdering women children.  Moreover, Syrian forces continued to prevent innocent and injured civilians from seeking help.  In light of all that, the international community must help, especially since some Council members had “sold out the Syrian people to shield a craven tyrant”, she said.  The United States, in contrast, stood “fully and irrevocably” with the people of Syria.

She recalled that, since the two members had vetoed earlier action, the Council had heard reports that the regime might be committing crimes against humanity.  Since then, an estimated 3,000 more civilians had been killed, including an estimated 250 just yesterday.  At the same time, a growing number of Syrians were taking to the streets to speak out against the Assad regime.  After today, they would be able to see clearly which nations had stood for their legitimate rights and which had chosen to “prop up desperate dictators”.  Indeed, any further bloodshed in Syria would be on their hands, she said.  The Governments that had stymied Council action must reverse course and heed the voices of the Syrian people, for their own sake, for the sake of Syria, and for the sake of the Council itself, she emphasized.

JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal) agreed that today was a sad day for the Council, having been unable to send a united and forceful message to the Syrian regime.  “How many more dead and maimed will it take to finally force this Council into action?” he asked.  It was particularly alarming that in January, the body had been unable to support the Arab League plan for political transition.  Today, yet again, the Council had failed to meet its responsibilities towards the Syrian people and to fulfil its mandate as the primary body responsible for the preservation of peace and security.

Stressing that the situation in Syria remained untenable and was quickly spiralling towards civil war, he pointed out that it had been made clear in the chamber that the draft resolution was not about regime change, did not allow for the use of force or impose sanctions.  Instead, it only demanded an end to the violence and supported dialogue.  Portugal, for its own part, supported the Arab League plan, which was the only way to resolve the Syrian crisis by peaceful means, he said, urging the parties immediately to end all violence and to hold a dialogue under the auspices of the Arab League.

MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) said he was “appalled” by the decision of China and the Russian Federation to veto the widely supported draft resolution.  It had been 10 months since the Syrian people had bravely demanded their rights, he said, adding that since then the regime had responded by killing its own people.  The number of deaths had steadily increased, and today it stood at about 6,000, a number had risen substantially during the last 24 hours.  Those who had blocked the Council’s action today should ask themselves how many deaths they were willing to tolerate before they supported “even modest action”, he said.

Representatives of the Arab League had pleaded for the Council’s support for their plan to end the violence, he continued, noting that Morocco’s original draft had only backed that request.  Yet some had argued that it advocated regime change.  The same minority now argued about the language of the current text, which had been amended several times in order to ensure consensus.  There was nothing in the text that should have incited the use of a veto, he stressed.  The truth was that China and the Russian Federation had failed in their responsibility to support the peaceful resolution of the crises in Syria.  “The regime must end the violence,” he reiterated, warning that, if it continued on its “bloody trajectory”, the issue would once again come before the Council.

NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) said the failure of the text denied support for an Arab League plan that sought a peaceful end to the crisis in Syria.  The Council had worked “for months” to chart a course out of the violence and repression, and its members had specifically sought the assistance and guidance of officials in the region.  Colombia had supported the text and still believed that it was necessary to “rescue the Syrian people from the horrific tragedy they are facing”, he said.

GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) recalled that his country’s Foreign Minister had outlined Guatemala’s position on the situation in Syria during Tuesday’s meeting on the matter.  Having voted in favour of the text, Guatemala was disappointed that it had “come to nought”.  Among the casualties of the Council’s “very particular voting system” were not only support for the Arab League plan, but also the Council’s very legitimacy, he said, urging the Arab League to persevere in its endeavours to ensure a peaceful solution.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) noted that Syria had historically played an important role in the Middle East, and prolonged instability there would have serious implications for the region.  India had for 10 months called for a peaceful solution and condemned all violence, regardless of the perpetrators.  It had also condemned all human rights violations and impressed upon the Syrian authorities the need to heed the aspirations of the Syrian people.  The freedom of speech and the right to assembly were fundamental in bolstering democratic societies, he said.  Emphasizing India’s firm view that a political path out of the crisis should be led by Syrians themselves, he said the international community’s role was to facilitate that process, while taking Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity into account.  India’s support for the text was in accordance with its backing of the Arab League’s efforts to promote a Syrian-led, broadly inclusive political process, he emphasized, noting that the text did not call for a military option and supported fully the Arab League’s call for a national dialogue.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said the bloodshed and violence in Syria must be ended immediately, adding that his country was taking direct action and planned to hold a meeting with President Bashar al-Assad on 7 February.  While the Russian Federation was committed to finding a solution to the crisis, some influential members of the international community had been undermining the possibility of a peaceful settlement by advocating a change of regime.  The draft resolution voted down today sought to send an “unbalanced” message to Syria, he said, adding that it did not accurately reflect the situation there.  No proposal had been made to end attacks by armed groups, or their association with extremists, he said, adding that his delegation had, therefore, voted against the text.  The Russian Federation greatly regretted the results of the Council’s joint work, and hoped that a successful Syrian political process would take place, he said, emphasizing that the Russian Federation would continue to work towards that goal.

LI BAODONG ( China), also calling for an immediate end to all violence in Syria, asked for the respect of the Syrian people for a reform process that was in their own interest.  China supported the Arab League’s “good office” efforts to restore stability in Syria, he said, adding that the international community should provide “constructive assistance” to achieve that goal.  However, the country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity must be respected, he emphasized.  The purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter must be respected, he added, citing the need to promote political dialogue and to defuse disputes “rather than complicate the issue”.  China had played an active part in the negotiations on the draft, and maintained that, under the current circumstances, placing “undue emphasis” on pressuring the Syrian Government would not help to resolve the crisis, but would further complicate the situation, he said.  China supported the amendments to the text proposed by the Russian Federation, and noted that the latter would meet with the President of Syria next week.  Pushing through a draft resolution while members of the Council were still “seriously divided” over the issue would not help to resolve it, he stressed, adding that it was in that context that China had voted against the text.  Nonetheless, it would continue to work with the international community towards an appropriate end to the crisis, he said.

ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON ( Pakistan) said the problem in Syria had assumed regrettable and condemnable dimensions.  The international community had accepted too much too easily, writing off too many things as “collateral damage”.  While very concerned about the killing and maiming of civilians, Pakistan was equally concerned about any attempts to infringe on Syria’s territorial integrity, he stressed.  Describing the negotiations on draft resolution as having been “spirited”, he said the Council should have called strongly on both sides to end the violence.  “I think there was a strong belief that everybody has to get into it to stop it,” he added.  However, despite today’s outcome, “we cannot wash our hands of this”, he said, adding that delegations must continue to seek a way forward.  The best vehicle would be the Arab League plan and “the substantial efforts” made over the past few days.  “Our system has let us down,” he said, adding that the use of the veto cut both ways.  In any case, the international community must continue its work to bolster partnership and cooperation, a major part of the effort to find a way out of the current crisis.  “This resolution should not die; by being active and engaged, we should give hope to those who are expecting it from us,” he stressed.

BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said the world was watching with “great concern” as the crisis in Syria continued to unfold and grow graver by the day.  Indeed, the violence continued to escalate, despite calls by the international community and other parties for an end to it and for a peaceful solution.  All parties should stop violence and embark on a national dialogue towards a Syrian-led, all-inclusive process that would fulfil the aspirations of the Syrian people.  Above all, that process should restore their dignity through democracy and the implementation of social reforms, leading to long-term stability and development.  While urging the Syrian authorities to carry out the reforms to which they had agreed months ago, he also urged the opposition to commit themselves to full participation in their implementation.  The Arab League should be given the necessary political space to facilitate a peaceful solution, and the Syrian people should be allowed to chart their own course and chose their own Government structure, he said, emphasizing that no foreign entity should aim to inject a solution.  Indeed, any solution must preserve Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

TOFIG MUSAYEV ( Azerbaijan ) said he was deeply concerned by the widespread violence that continued to exacerbate the situation in Syria despite the international community’s calls.  Azerbaijan had supported the Arab League’s efforts from the very beginning and looked forward to a peaceful resolution of the crisis, he said.  An inclusive, Syrian-led political process was the only way to resolve the crisis, he said, noting that the draft resolution clearly expressed support for that goal.  Moreover, Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and all other States in the region was also reflected, he said, noting that nothing in the text authorized measures under Article 42 of the United Nations Charter.  The Government of Azerbaijan had, therefore, supported the resolution in hopes that it would bring an end to the human suffering in Syria.

Council President KODJO MENAN (Togo), speaking in his national capacity, said that he had hoped the text would send a strong message to the Syrian regime on the need to end all violence, but unfortunately, the Council had not been able to send that message.  Deploring the state of affairs in Syria, he said the Council had once again failed to bring peace and security to the country.  Nonetheless, it must be able to continue seeking ways and means to do so, he stressed, adding that the Syrian people should not continue to weep, suffer and bury their dead while the Council stood by watching.  “We must act,” he emphasized.

BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said that, given his country’s belief in the importance of its “pan-Arab role”, he had hoped that the question of the situation there would remain “in the Syrian household”, and within the Arab structure.  The rush by some parties to bring the issue to the Council was a cause of great concern.  The United Nations had indeed become an “instrument of war”, he said, adding that those parties were waging wars in order to gain control of geographic locations and lucrative resources.

Pointing out that the Council had adopted only 690 resolutions between its inception and the year 1988, he said it had adopted three times that number in the following 20 years.  That was an indication that the world was becoming less secure, less just and less fair.  Syria, a founding member of the Untied Nations, was being targeted by some Powers, he said.  Indeed, it was in the midst of a crisis “manufactured” by States that did not wish it well, and which gave money, arms and media coverage to the armed terrorist groups that were killing, abducting and intimidating Syrian civilians.  Would any sensible person believe that a Government would commit massacres on a day when the Council was scheduled to hold a meeting to examine the situation in its territory? he asked.

The killings committed this morning were the most convincing proof of the criminal nature of those groups, he said, adding that they had been carried out to send a “misleading message” aimed at swaying Council members.  The Council had not examined the Arab League’s report, which noted that Syria had, in fact, fulfilled its obligations.  The League had recently been “dragged” to the Council in an effort to influence it, he said, adding that some Council members sought to “internationalize” the crisis.  Additionally, he cited support for allegations that forced regime change lay at the heart of such efforts.

The draft resolution that had failed to pass today emphasized the importance of dialogue, he noted, saying that Syria supported that.  However, some of the parties to the conflict refused to engage in dialogue, as all Council members knew well.  Syria sought dialogue that was inclusive of all parties, under “the roof of its homeland”, he said, adding that it such a dialogue would be developed in Syria and by Syrians.  They did not need to wait for “instructions on democracy” from others, he said, noting that the statements made by some Council members betrayed their “true hostile intentions” against Syria, and would “fan the flames” of violence and bloodshed.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.