In February, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council (UNSC) attempt to pressure the Assad regime’s forfeiture of power as violence escalated in the ongoing conflict in Syria. After the dual veto, the diplomatic council Friends of Syria was formed outside of the UNSC, and China and Russia have been absent to all of their meetings to date. While China has used veto power sparingly compared to all other permanent council members (the US, France, Russia, and the UK), and has vocally condemned the bloodshed in Syria, it still doesn’t appear ready to budge from its stance on international involvement. An article in Wednesday’s China Daily expressed China’s plans as the Friends of Syria geared up for their third meeting today:
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Wednesday said the country’s position on the upcoming “Friends of Syria” meeting has not changed, indicating it would continue with its policy of not attending the events.
Liu Weimin told a regular press briefing: “At this point, there is no information that China will attend the meeting.”
His remarks came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that Russia would not attend the meeting to be held in Paris this week.
Indeed, both China and Russia were absent at today’s meeting in Paris. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used the meeting to directly address the vetoing nations. CNN reports:
Speaking at the Friends of Syria conference in Paris, Clinton called on Russia and China to “get off the sidelines” and accused them of “standing up for” al-Assad’s regime. She urged the other 100 or so nations and organizations represented at the summit to “make it clear that Russia and China will pay a price” for that position.
“I ask you to reach out to Russia and China and not only ask but demand that they get off the sidelines,” she said. “I don’t think Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all, nothing at all, for standing with (the) Assad regime.”
Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution today strongly condemning “widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights, acts of violence, ongoing atrocities and indiscriminate targeting of civilians by the Syrian authorities”. With 41 votes in favor and three abstentions, China, Russia, and Cuba voted against the resolution. An article in Xinhua English gives the official line on China’s lack of support:
China said the resolution is neither balanced nor objective. It will do no good to help resolve the human rights issues in Syria, instead will possibly intensify the confrontation among parties in Syria, making the political process of Syria more complicated, China said.
For more on China and Syria, see prior CDT coverage.