Russia, China veto UN resolution on Syria sanctions over chemical weapons use

It was the seventh time that Russia, Syria's top military ally, has used its veto power to shield the Damascus regime. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP United States Feb 28, 2017, 06.16 PM (IST)

Russia and China on Tuesday vetoed a Western-backed UN resolution that would have imposed sanctions on Syria over chemical weapons use, as peace talks in Geneva showed no signs of progress on ending the nearly six-year war.

The Security Council resolution drafted by Britain, France and the United States won nine votes in favour while three countries opposed it -- China, Russia and Bolivia. Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and Egypt abstained.

UN resolutions require nine positive votes and no veto to be adopted.

It was the seventh time that Russia, Syria's top military ally, has used its veto power to shield the Damascus regime. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned earlier that imposing sanctions on Syria was "completely inappropriate" while talks were ongoing in Geneva on ending the war.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley shot back: "This resolution is very appropriate."

"It is a sad day on the Security Council when members start making excuses for other member states killing their own people," she said.

"The world is definitely a more dangerous place," she told the council after the measure was rejected.

'Moment of truth'

The resolution would have put 11 Syrians, mainly military commanders, and 10 entities linked to chemical attacks in 2014 and 2015 on a UN sanctions blacklist.

It included a ban on the sale of helicopters and of chemical agents to the Syrian armed forces or the government.

A UN-led investigation concluded in October that the Syrian air force had dropped chlorine barrel bombs from helicopters on three opposition-held villages in 2014 and 2015.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre said the vote was a "moment of truth" for the council, arguing that chemical weapons use was a "negation of all civilisation".

The joint panel of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also found that Islamic State jihadists used mustard gas in an attack in 2015.

US joins Britain, France at UN

The vote marked the first major council action by the new US administration of President Donald Trump, who is seeking warmer ties with Russia. 

France and Britain had circulated the proposed measure in December and the new US administration joined as a co-sponsor of the draft resolution this month.