UNITED NATIONS, - In a major diplomatic setback for the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia and China joined the Security Council on Wednesday to express support for the attempt by the Arab League and sent of the United Nations (UN) Kofi Annan [Unlink]
to end the violence that left Syria on the brink of civil war.
Western diplomats said the agreement on a statement expressing "concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria" should be a warning to Assad, who had the support of Russia to defend itself from international criticism while suppressing antigovernment protests.
The statement threatens Syria with "further steps" if the country does not comply with the six points of the Annan peace proposal - which calls for a ceasefire, political dialogue between government and opposition and full access of humanitarian aid agencies.
The American initiative, and a statement by the European Council in support of the Annan mission came after Russia and China veto twice a resolution condemning the repression of the demonstrators Assad, who, according to the UN, has killed more than 8000 people .
Unlike resolutions, which are legally binding and require nine votes and no veto from the five permanent council members to be made, the statements in general are not binding but require unanimous support of the board.
Although the statement does not explicitly support the plan of the Arab League calling for the resignation of Assad, it includes the request for Annan for a political process that echoes the one proposed.
Expressing "full support to the efforts (of Annan) to bring an immediate end to all violence and human rights violations, to ensure humanitarian access and to facilitate a political transition led by the Syrians a democratic and pluralistic."
The statement also demands that Syria stop fighting first - something that Annan and the West are asking for.