Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Mis-Communicators of the Week: Russia and China

The Charter of the United Nations states that the UN’s Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Clearly the UN representatives from Russia and China haven’t read their copies of the Charter recently.

In international diplomacy, the words communicated by the UN Security Council frequently set the rhythm and pace of change. Or halt it in its tracks. A firm resolution is a warning shot across the bows of a tyrant or aggressive nation; a strongly worded statement is the diplomatic world’s equivalent of crunching tackle on a talented playmaker in football. Sadly we have seen neither from the UN aimed in the direction of Syria.

The Syrian regime has been wilfully killing its own people for months and those on the receiving end of President Assad’s security crack-down are crying out for help. The UN stopped estimating the death toll in Syria after it passed 5,400 in January, saying it was too difficult to confirm. In New York this weekend it was hoped the Security Council would agree a resolution to stop the killing, put in place monitors, or, at the very least, send a positive signal to President Assad that enough was enough.

Instead, at the crucial vote, China and Russia both vetoed the resolution to condemn the actions of the Syrian security forces. As Permanent Members of the Security Council their actions were enough to stop the will of the other 13 who voted in favour of the resolution. The  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rightly described the veto as a "travesty". Understanding the actions of international statesmen can sometimes be difficult. Not this time. Russia and China put their own self-interest above those of the Syrian people. Instead of communicating clearly to President Assad to stop with the killing, they signalled an acceptance of the continuing violence. For this they are my Mis-Communicators of the Week.

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