The Chinese and Russian delegations at the United Nations are coming under intense criticism following their veto this weekend of a resolution in support of the Arab League's peace plan in Syria. FRANCE 24's international affairs editor Robert Parsons explains why he thinks Moscow and Beijing are so reluctant for the United Nations to get involved in the Syrian conflict.
1. What comes next for Syria after the Russian and Chinese rejection of the latest UN resolution? Is there any future for the Arab League proposals of 22 January?
The outlook looks bleak. Moscow and Beijing have effectively closed the door on what looked like a potential way out of impending disaster.
2. Why did they do it?
Moscow has the most to lose. For decades, Syria has been the cornerstone of its presence in the Middle East. With the veto, Russia cloaks its geo-strategic and commercial concerns in what it calls a principled approach to the problem. Along with Beijing, Moscow says the resolution was unbalanced, because it placed the blame for violence in Syria almost exclusively on the government. They pose a difficult question: what would happen if the resolution passed but failed to stop the violence? In their view, the resolution was a thinly disguised way to bring about a regime change, and for them, that is anathema.
3. What options are open to the West and the Arab League now?
Not a lot. The US and France are proposing the creation of a group of friends of Syria along the lines of the contact group set up to coordinate the international efforts to help the Libyan opposition last year. But with Syria, the circumstances are different. The opposition is splintered, and the Syrian government is stronger than that of Muammar Gaddafi. There is also the Russian opposition. Stronger sanctions are an obvious option, but they take time to have an effect, and time is in short supply in Syria. The country looks like it is moving rapidly towards civil war.
4. Can Russia bring anything to the table?
Moscow's position in the Middle East is at risk. If there is regime change in Syria – and that looks increasingly likely in the long run – then Moscow’s position will not be forgotten in the Arab world. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov goes to Damascus on Tuesday, but it's unclear what he can offer and why Syria would listen to him in any case. Moscow accused the backers of the Syrian resolution of having no back-up plan if the resolution failed, but it's unclear whether Russia itself has anything to propose.
5. And then there is an even bigger question? Where does this leave the UN?
The power of veto invested in the five permanent members has been used again and increasingly looks like an anomaly in the modern world. But is there sufficient will to reform the UN?