UNITED NATIONS —
Russia wielded its U.N. Security Council veto Monday, blocking imposition of a 7-day cease-fire in the Syrian city of Aleppo so that humanitarian aid could reach the city’s besieged eastern neighborhoods.
China sided with Russia and also vetoed the measure. Council member Venezuela voted against it, while Angola abstained.
“These kinds of pauses have been used by fighters to reinforce their ammo [ammunition] and to strengthen their positions,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council by way of explanation. “This will only worsen the suffering of civilians,” he said.
His delegation had tried to stop the vote going ahead on a minor procedural issue, but failed to find enough support for its effort.
The Russian ambassador also complained that the drafters of the resolution – Egypt, New Zealand and Spain – had been pressured to rush to a vote by the United States, Britain and France.
“We think that these efforts only worsen the situation around Aleppo,” Churkin said.
Council members have been discussing the text for at least a month.
The draft resolution originally called for a 10-day humanitarian pause, but the authors cut it back to seven consecutive days with the hope that it would win Russian support.
“Today’s veto is another indictment on Russia, on those that supported it, and on this council,” said New Zealand’s envoy Gerard van Bohemen.
“Today’s veto demonstrates to the world that for Moscow and Damascus our common refrain – there is no military solution to this conflict – is a hollow fiction,” van Bohemen said. “For those countries it is clear that a military victory is precisely what they want and are actively pursuing,” he added.
Syria's Russian-backed military has been intensifying its offensive against the rebel-held enclave in Aleppo since mid-November. It has since retaken more than half of the rebel-held areas. Some 250,000 civilians are trapped in the eastern part of the city. U.S. Deputy Ambassador Michele Sison said the Russian and Chinese action would only serve to deprive besieged civilians of medicine, food and other life-saving aid.
“They have vetoed the lives of innocent Syrians, she said. “This action is a death sentence for innocent men, women and children.” Dozens of U.N. member states have called for action in the U.N. General Assembly because of the council’s inability to stop the fighting.
“It is abundantly clear that the Security Council is unwilling to save lives in Syria,” Najib Ghadbian, the Special Representative of the Syrian National Coalition said in a statement. “It is now up to member states to stop Assad's slaughter through the enforcement of a nationwide no-bomb zone and the immediate delivery of airdrops into besieged eastern Aleppo."
Ahead of Monday's vote, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he would hold talks on Tuesday or Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva.
"During the Russian-American consultations, the concrete route and timeframe for the withdrawal of all fighters from eastern Aleppo will be agreed upon," Lavrov said.
U.S. officials had not confirmed those talks by mid-afternoon Monday, and there was no immediate U.S. comment on the Security Council vote.