Russia and China on Tuesday blocked a UN Security Council draft resolution to impose sanctions on the Syrian regime over chemical weapon attacks.
Russia branded the proposal a “provocation to discredit the government of Syria and its armed forces”. Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy permanent representative, said the draft aimed to “create additional grounds to change the regime in Damascus”.
The two permanent members have shielded Bashar al-Assad’s regime from international sanctions over the course of the six-year war.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the Council’s decision an “outrageous and indefensible choice”.
“It is a sad day on the Security Council when members start making excuses for other member states killing their own people. The world is definitely a more dangerous place,” Haley said.
U.K.’s permanent representative Matthew Rycroft said, “We will not give up on justice for Syria.”
Also addressing the session, Syria said it was against the use of chemical weapons saying such an act “flies in the face of ethics”, and accused the resolution’s sponsors of politicking.
Proposed by France, the U.K., and the U.S., the draft would have imposed sanctions on 21 Syrian individuals and organizations alleged to have been involved in chemical weapon attacks.
It would also have banned the supply of helicopters, which are said to be used by government forces to drop chemical weapons, to the Syrian government.
The motion received nine votes from the 15-member council. Bolivia also voted against the motion while Egypt, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan abstained.
A joint investigation by the UN and the international chemical weapons watchdog has found the Syrian government was behind at least three attacks involving chlorine gas.
The draft resolution also called into question the Assad regime’s declarations regarding its chemical stockpiles, calling for further investigation.
The U.S., which spearheaded the effort to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal after the Barack Obama administration’s about-face on military action in 2013, conceded last October that the mission was “not a complete victory”.
“We obviously didn’t remove all their capacity to create chemical weapons,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at the time.