UNITED NATIONS — Russia and China Thursday vetoed a U.S.-backed United Nations Security Council resolution threatening the Syrian government with sanctions, upending four months of diplomacy aimed at stemming a crisis that has left more than 14,000 dead and engulfed the country in civil war.
The action dealt a potentially fatal blow to U.N.-Arab League emissary Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan, and cast doubts that Moscow and Beijing are prepared to apply pressure on Syria to meet its commitments to constrain its troops.
It was the third veto by both countries of a U.N. Security Council resolution seeking to pressure the government of President Bashar al-Assad to curtail its violent crackdown, initially on unarmed civilians and more recently on civilians and armed opposition groups.
The resolution failed to pass by a vote of 11 for and 2 against, with Pakistan and South Africa abstaining. As permanent members of the 15-nation Security Council, Russia and China — both longtime allies of Assad — have veto power.
Both were open about their opposition to the resolution in the days leading up to the vote.
“The Security Council has failed utterly in its most important task on its agenda this year,” Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the council after the vote. “The first two vetoes were very destructive. This veto is even more dangerous and deplorable.”
The standoff in the council raised doubts about the long-term future of the U.N. Supervisory Mission in Syria, whose mandate expires today, and which has been severely restricted in its efforts to enforce a broken cease-fire agreement.
In a news conference before the vote, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, the head of the mission, was notably downbeat.
“It pains me to say, but we are not on the track for peace in Syria, and the escalations we have witnessed in Damascus over the past few days is a testimony to that,” Mood said.
Rice said the U.S. would no longer “pin its policy” on unarmed U.N. observers lacking even “minimal support” from the Security Council, but would work with a diverse coalition of countries outside the council to “bring pressure to bear” on the Syrian regime.
Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, defended the veto, saying the resolution was “biased” in threatening only the Syrian government with sanctions and doing nothing to constrain the opposition movement.