MUNICH (Reuters) - Arab countries and Turkey joined the West on Sunday in criticizing the Russian-Chinese veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution against President Bashar al-Assad.
Moscow and Beijing vetoed the resolution, which would have expressed the Security Council’s full support for an Arab League plan that would see Assad cede power to a deputy, withdraw troops from cities and make way for democracy.
The resolution - co-sponsored by several Arab states - saw the United States and Europe allied with many of Syria’s regional neighbors calling for stronger action.
“Unfortunately, yesterday in the U.N., the Cold War logic continues,” Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a security conference in Munich.
“Russia and China did not vote based on the existing realities but more a reflexive attitude against the West. The veto power should not be used from this perspective.”
The Arab League said it would continue to try to implement its plan despite the veto. The veto “does not negate that there is clear international support for the resolutions of the Arab League,” its Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said.
The failed U.N. vote came a day after activists say Assad’s forces killed more than 200 people in the sustained shelling of Homs, the bloodiest episode in 11 months of upheaval. The United Nations says that over 5,000 civilians have been killed so far.
Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja‘afari ridiculed Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia that sponsored the measure, saying nations “that prevent women from attending a soccer match” had no right to lecture Syria on democracy.
Russia objected that the draft resolution was a biased and improper attempt at regime change in Syria, Moscow’s sole major Middle East ally, an important buyer of Russian arms exports and host to a Russian naval base.
Arab countries have sharply distanced themselves from Assad in recent months, voting to suspend Syria’s membership of the Arab League and to announcing sanctions unless Syria carries out the League’s peace plan.
After Friday night’s violence, Tunisia shut the Syrian embassy and said it would stop recognizing Assad’s government.
Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jbeli said the arguments brandished by Russia against intervention in Syria were similar to those that helped sustain Tunisia’s own President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the first leader toppled in the Arab Spring.
“If a regime is killing its people, are we allowed to talk about sovereignty as a reason or justification?” asked Jbeli.
“This is exactly what happened in Tunisia. I don’t want now to blame the West, but when the Ben Ali regime was killing people and throwing them into prison, our friends said ‘we do not want to intervene because this is an issue of sovereignty’.”
Egypt’s foreign minister emphasized the need for a solution for Syria “within an Arab context” and said Arab League foreign ministers would meet in Cairo next Saturday to discuss the Security Council vote and how to move forward.
“The bloodshed has to stop, this is a tragedy that cannot be allowed to continue in our midst,” said Mohamed Kamel Amr.
Additional reporting by William Maclean.