US, Russia UNSC vetoes costing civilian lives

Mustafa Deveci

The US and Russia, two of the five permanent members of UN Security Council (UN-SC), frequently veto draft resolutions designed to allay humanitarian crises, leading to civilian deaths in Palestine and Syria. While the US provides Israel with diplomatic cover by using its veto power, Russia reserves this power for Syria.

Meanwhile, civilians — in both Palestine and Syria — end up paying the price.  The US proposed a draft resolution calling for an independent probe into the recent suspected chemical attack in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta district that left 78 civilians dead. The resolution, however, was vetoed by Russia at the UNSC.

On Apr. 7, the US — for the second time — vetoed a draft resolution calling for an investigation into excessive force used by Israel that has recently left dozens of Palestinians dead.  To date, the US has vetoed at least 40 draft resolutions critical of Israel. Th-irty of these sought to warn or condemn Israel for its oc-cupation of Palestinian land.

Since 2011, when the civil war erupted in Syria, Russia has vetoed 12 draft resolutions critical of Syria’s Assad regime.  On Jan. 23, 1976, the US — for the first time — vetoed a UNSC draft resolution on the Palestinian issue. That draft had called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, for Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries to return to their homes, and for compensation to be paid to those who couldn’t return.

It also called on Israel to withdraw from territory it occupied in 1967.  At around the same time, the US vetoed a draft resolution on Jerusalem that had called on Israel to refrain fr-om altering the city’s religious and demographic character. US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Isr-ael’s capital was also mentioned in a draft resolution in January, but that, too, was also vetoed by Washington. Russia, for its part, has used its veto power to prevent sanctions from being placed on the Syrian regime, which is said to have used chemical weapons against its own people.

The first time Russia used its veto power this way was on Oct. 4, 2011, when both Moscow and Beijing vetoed a draft resolution calling for sanctions against the Assad regime.  In May 2014, France proposed a draft resolution demanding that Assad reg-ime officials be tried in the International Court of Hum-an Rights for alleged war crimes.  But this draft resolution, too, was vetoed by both Russia and China.  And on Tuesday, Russia vetoed a draft resolution that would have established a committee tasked with determining who was responsible for the suspected chemical attack in Syria.

Civilians pay price: Washington’s and Russia’s protection of Israel and Assad respectively has only aggravated the crises in both countries. Encouraged by the US vetoes, Israel has maintained its oppressive policies by which some 5.3 million Palestinians continue to live as refugees.

According to Palestinian figures, more than 3,000 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli troops since the start of 2000.  Since Gaza’s “Great Return” rallies kicked off on Mar. 30, at least 35 Palestinians have been killed by cross-border Israeli gunfire, while 3,000 others have been injured. Blockaded by Israel since 2007, the Gaza Strip’s roughly two million inhabitants continue to live in what observers describe as “the world’s largest outdoor prison”.   Conditions in Syria are even worse, with half of the population having been reduced to refugees amid ongoing violence by the regime and the Daesh and YPG/PKK terrorist groups.


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