After Vetoes of Syrian Resolution, Diplomatic Theatrics at the U.N.

Russia and China are spinning why they won't condemn the Syrian regime

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The decision by Russia and China to veto a U.S.- and European-backed draft resolution condemning Syria for its crackdown on protesters and threatening sanctions set off diplomatic theatrics at the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, but the outcome isn't surprising. We've noted before how Russia and China oppose intervening in other countries' internal affairs, especially after NATO's Libyan campaign, and how Russia sells weapons to Syria, its top Mideast ally, and maintains a naval base there--realities that produced a watered-down Security Council statement on the Syrian uprising in August.

Still, diplomats are sounding off about the vote. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, for example, stormed out of the Security Council chamber after Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari accused the U.S. of "partaking in genocide" by supporting Israel at the U.N. Rice also said Russia's comparison of Syria to Libya was a "cheap ruse by those who would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people." Coverage of the Security Council vote in the countries most involved in the measure highlights these divisions:

U.S./Europe Coverage tends to frame the vote in terms of Russian and Chinese obstruction (headlines include "U.N. Resolution on Syria Blocked by Russia and China" and "China, Russia, Vetoes Thwart U.N. Security Council Resolution on Syria") or Western exasperation (see "U.S. Slams Russia and China for Vetoing U.N. Resolution on Syria" or "Western Anger at U.N. Vetoes").

China: State-run news outlets are echoing official talking points. The Xinhua news agency reports that Russia and China vetoed the resolution "in their efforts to uphold the principle of non-interference and maintain peace and stability in the Middle East" in the spirit of the U.N.'s mandate, adding bitterly that "the draft's proponents failed to pay due attention to the reasonable concerns of Russia and China" (Russia also claims its misgivings were "ignored," despite the U.S. and its Western allies arguing that they made significant concessions in the lead-up to Tuesday's vote). Another Xinhua brief claiming that by blocking the resolution, China was calling for "restraint in Syria."

Russia: Many state-run Russian news outlets are also channeling the statements of Russian diplomats. RIA Novosti runs with the headline, "Russia Vows to Prevent Repetition of 'Libya Scenario'" while The Voice of Russia, citing Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, notes that Russia had "vetoed the philosophy of confrontation." While "Russia has again made clear that it is not an advocate of the Bashar Assad regime," the radio station notes, "Moscow will continue to work with the patriotic-minded Syrian opposition that opposes foreign interference in its country’s internal affairs."

Syria: The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, as you might expect, is gleefully reporting news of the vote. Its lengthy lead story quotes the Russian, Chinese, and Syrian ambassadors at length and also features comments from the Indian, Brazilian, South African, and Lebanese ambassadors who abstained. But America's position is relegated to the brief final paragraph. "For her part, U.S Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice expressed her disappointment regarding the Security Council's failure in adopting a resolution against Syria," SANA observes. The French and British ambassadors aren't even quoted.

Here's footage of Susan Rice's comments on Tuesday, via The Guardian:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.