Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Councilresolution Tuesday that would have imposed sanctions on 21 Syrian people and organizations linked to chemical weapons attacks in the war-torn country.
The proposal, initially sponsored by France and theUnited Kingdom, but also backed by the United States, would have banned all countries from supplying the Syrian government with helicopters. Investigators said helicopters have been used in the attacks.
“It is a sad day on the Security Council when members start making excuses for other member states killing their own people,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said. “The world is definitely a more dangerous place.”
The vetoes came after Russian President Vladimir Putin told a news conference Tuesday in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, that the draft resolution was “totally inappropriate.”
“It would undermine trust in the negotiating process. Russia will not support any new sanctions against the Syrian leadership,” said Putin, an ally of Syrian PresidentBashar Assad.
China’s UN ambassador Liu Jieyi said his government opposed use of chemical weapons. But he said any decision on sanctions should be made after completion of ongoing investigations. The veto came on the same day Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hosted Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi.
It’s the sixth time China vetoed sanctions involving Syria; Russia has issued seven such vetoes.
Nine members of the U.N. Security Council voted in favor of the measure, enough to win the day. But Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. have the right of veto. Bolivia joined Russia and China in voting no, and Egypt, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan abstained.
The resolution followed a joint investigation by the U.N. and the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that said the Syrian air force and the Islamic State used chemical weapons during the 6-year-old civil war.
The Syrian government, which has denied using chemical weapons, agreed to destroy its chemical weapons cache in 2013 under an agreement negotiated with Russia and the U.S.
The report, published in August 2016, said there was “sufficient evidence” that the air force twice attacked Syrian civilians with chlorine gas and the Islamic State used “sulfur-mustard” gas from 2014 to 2015.
At least 450,000 Syrians are estimated to have been killed and about 5 million have fled the country since the war started in 2011.
“Russia/China’s veto of UN sanctions over chemical attacks in #Syria sends a terrible message that using chemical weapons can go unpunished,” Human Rights Watch tweeted.
Haley had previously issued a statement of firm support for the sanctions.
“How much longer is Russia going to continue to babysit and make excuses for the Syrian regime?” she said. “You are either for chemical weapons or you are against it. People died because of this, and the United States isn’t going to be quiet.”