UPDATE: Security Council Resolution on Syria Vetoed

After a night of terror in Homs, the atmosphere as the UN Security Council meets is tense, as diplomats still are unsure whether a resolution on Syria will pass this morning. The draft, written by Morocco and amended several times since its introduction, is still meeting opposition from the Russian Federation. The current version of the text “fully supports” the Arab League’s plan from January 22 to have President Bashar al-Assad hand power to a Vice-President. The Russians have offered several new amendments since yesterday, including one to have the opposition in Syria fully denounce armed groups and another to soften the timetable of the Arab League’s planned transition. US Permanent Representative Susan called the proposals “unacceptable”. The supporters of the resolution are pushing to have a vote immediately, without further delays by Russia.

UN observers expected the situation to become clearing following talks between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Instead, Russia’s final vote is as much in the air as ever as last minute negotiations drag on. The current vote count sees the United States, United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Togo, Columbia, Guatemala, Germany, Portugal, Azerbaijan and India on board. Pakistan, South Africa and China are on the fence, leaning towards abstention. The real question on whether this vote passes is whether Russia will choose to abstain or veto. If the latter, the future of Syria will be cloudier than ever.

EDIT: The amendments proposed by the Russian Federation were rejected in informal consultations, leaving the co-sponsors of the draft resolution to push for a vote. In a move that mirrored the October draft, the vote came out with 13 in favor, including South Africa and India, and 2 against, with Russia and China issuing a “double veto”.

The Permanent Representatives of France, the United Kingdom and the United States have already blasted Russia and China on their veto. France has vowed that the European Union will seek new sanctions against Syria and continue to support the Arab League’s transition plan. Ambassador Susan Rice was particularly furious in her speech, saying that the United States is “disgusted that two members” would block the Security Council’s “sole purpose for being here. She went on to insist that the co-sponsors have gone “the last mile to accommodate” the wishes of Russia.

Further updates after Syria, Russia, and China speak.

EDIT 2: Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin spoke briefly on the outcome of the resolution. He stressed that the negotiations over the resolution weren’t complete, with several Russian amendments having been ignored. In being forced to vote on the draft, Russia insisted that the Security Council has now sent a “mixed signal” to Syria. Ambassador Churkin further informed that the Council that a Russian delegation, including President Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would be travelling to Damascus next week in an attempt to press Assad to stop the violence.

Rather than abstaining and coasting through on the Russian veto, as many predicted, China itself had several issues with the draft proposal, noting that it went against the “principles of the United Nations Charter”. In specific, Ambassador Li Baodong said that it was opposed to the “prejudged result” of the Arab League’s political plan for Syria. The speeches of all non-permanent members taking the floor have expressed strong, undiluted support  for the final text of the draft’s proposals, making clear that Russia and China’s arguments are not ringing true.

UPDATE: US Ambassador Susan Rice strikes a VERY sharp tone.
Explanation of Vote by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent
Representative to the United Nations, At a Security Council Adoption of
a Syria UNSCR, February 4, 2012

Mr. President, the United States is disgusted that a couple of members
of this Council continue to prevent us from fulfilling our sole purpose
here-addressing an ever-deepening crisis in Syria and a growing threat
to regional peace and security.

For months this Council has been held hostage by a couple of members.
These members stand behind empty arguments and individual interests
while delaying and seeking to strip bare any text that would pressure
Asad to change his actions.  This intransigence is even more shameful
when you consider that at least one of these members continues to
deliver weapons to Asad.

The United States has long said that it’s past time that this Council
assumed its responsibilities and imposed tough, targeted sanctions and
an arms embargo on the Asad regime, as many individual countries have
already done.  But this draft didn’t even do that.  This text simply
supported an Arab League plan that Asad himself already agreed to
uphold, and the subsequent Arab League decision towards a peaceful
resolution of the crisis.

The co-sponsors of this draft have truly gone the last mile to try to
reach consensus on a draft that already more than accommodates the
concerns of a few Council members about the use of force and sanctions.
Subsequent attempts to introduce wrecking amendments at the very
eleventh hour only to further delay Council action are unforgivable.
Since yesterday, the Syrian government has waged an intensified and
especially horrific campaign in Homs to murder hundreds, including women
and children, with artillery and tanks and other indiscriminate
violence. Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of innocent and
injured civilians from seeking medical help. The international community
must protect the Syrian people from this abhorrent brutality. But a
couple members of this Council remain steadfast in their willingness to
sell out the Syrian people and shield a craven tyrant. The United States
by contrast stands fully and irrevocably with the long-suffering people
of Syria.

Since these same two Council members last vetoed a resolution on Syria,
we have heard reports from the High Commissioner for Human Rights that
the regime may be committing crimes against humanity; from Arab League
Secretary General Elaraby; and from Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin
Jassim, who noted that the Asad regime has “failed to make any serious
effort to cooperate” with the Arab League, and that Asad’s “killing
machine continues effectively unabated.”

Since these two members last vetoed a resolution on Syria, an estimated
3,000 more civilians have been killed. 3,000. Another almost 250 killed
just yesterday. Many thousands more have been held captive and tortured
by Asad and his shabiha gangs. Since these two members last vetoed a
resolution, however, and despite the absence of Security Council action,
we have seen more and more Syrians speak out in peaceful demonstrations
against the regime.

Once again, the courageous people of Syria can clearly see who on this
Council supports their yearning for liberty and universal rights-and who
does not.  And during this season of change, the people of the Middle
East can now see clearly which nations have chosen to ignore their calls
for democracy and instead prop up desperate dictators. Those who opposed
this resolution have denied this last chance to end Assad’s brutality
through peaceful means under Arab League auspices. Any further blood
that flows will be on their hands.

The governments that once again stymied Council action need to reverse
course and heed the voices of the Syrian people for their own sake, for
the sake of Syria, for the sake of the Middle East, and for the sake of
this Council.

Thank you, Mr. President.