China and Syria

22 Feb

The conflict in Syria, which has been on going for over 3 years, may have now reached a turning point. China and Russia have vetoed 3 previous UN resolutions calling for intervention, and often sanctions ‘that would have put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to end the conflict’ (Mackereth et al, 2014). According to activists, the blocking actions have led to the death of ‘more than 136,000 people’ (Mackereth et al, 2014).

The UN Security Council came together on the 22nd and made a unanimous decision after two weeks of debate to back a resolution calling for the Assad regime and opposing rebel forces to ‘provide immediate access to deliver aid to the millions in desperate need of help’ (BBC, 2014).

China’s Ambassador for the UN, Liu Jieyi has strongly advised all involved parties to implement the resolution ‘in good faith’ and adds, “China is gravely concerned at the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria, we deeply sympathize with people and we hope to see an early and prompt amelioration of the situation in Syria” (Xinhuanet, 2014).

This change in direction from China and Russia comes with much relief from the west, with the Secretary of State John Kerry praising the U.N. Security Council uniting for the first time on a resolution regarding Syria’s humanitarian crisis, calling it a potential “hinge-point” in ending that country’s deadly, 3-year-long civil war.

China and Russia were previously meet with uproar after veto’s of past resolutions, bringing in to debate exactly whether collective security works and the how effective the role of the UN is.  Whether countries should have the decision to veto resolutions that can save many civilian lives is a very tough question, however it is a necessary precaution to stop any one country becoming to dominant. Yet, one only needs to look back to the illegal war in Iraq to see that the effectiveness of the UN can be undermined by the USA.

The Syrian conflict has seen over 6.5 million people displaced, and over 100,000 killed and thousands more raped or tortured, many of whom are ordinary civilians (BBC, 2014). Russia- Syria’s ally- has always blamed the Syrian rebels for the atrocities, whereas the west acknowledges the involvement of both sides, but generally sided with the rebels.

The lack of UN collective action up until now has allowed this violence and civil war to continue for far longer than it necessary. This adds to a growing list of examples where the UN has been unable to act on issue that are of huge concern, leading to the UN being somewhat discredited. The world must now wait to see if both parties in Syria comply with the resolution, however it did not include the threat of sanctions for non-compliance, this was a reference that the Russians insisted must be dropped from the original Western and Arab-backed text, which some may say may limit the resolutions effectiveness, however it does express the council’s intention to take “further steps” if the resolution is not implemented (Mackereth et al, 2014).

References:

Mackereth, A. and Bartram, T. 2014, Syria conflict: Russains fall into line and back uurgent aid for war-torn country, The Independent, Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-conflict-russians-fall-into-line-and-back-urgent-aid-for-wartorn-country-9146873.html [Accessed 24/02/2014]

BBC, 2014, Syria conflict: Half population urgently need aid- UN, BBC News, Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25741225 [Accessed 24/02/2014]

Xinhua, 2014, China supports UN Security Council’s Syria aid resolution: FM, Xinhuanet, Available at http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2014-02/24/c_133138384.htm [Accessed 24/02/2014]

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