UNITED NATIONS — Russia and China used their veto power in the U.N. Security Council to block a draft resolution on Monday calling for a seven-day humanitarian truce in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo, leading the U.S. representative to accuse them of issuing a "death sentence" for innocent Syrians.
It was Russia's sixth veto and China's fifth of resolutions on the civil war in Syria, now in its sixth year.
The resolution, sponsored by New Zealand, Egypt and Spain, sought to allow for the removal of the sick and wounded and to provide humanitarian aid workers enough time to get food aid and medicine into the besieged city.
The resolution had 11 votes in favor, three against with one abstention but because Russia and China as permanent members of the 15-seat council have veto power the resolution did not pass. Venezuela, a non-permanent member, cast the other "No" vote and Angola abstained.
U.S. Deputy Ambassador Michele Sison called the vetoes "a death sentence for innocent men, women and children."
"Let me tell you what Russia and China have vetoed today in blocking this resolution and allowing the bombardment of eastern Aleppo to continue. They have vetoed the delivery of basic medicine to people who will die without it. They have vetoed the evacuation of sick and dying people who have no chance of surviving in the bombed out hospitals and clinics of eastern Aleppo. They vetoed the delivery of food to civilians who could starve to death," Sison said. "They have vetoed the lives of innocent Syrians."
Before the vote, Sison traded barbs with the Russian representative over who was to blame for the resolution's failure.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin complained that the vote violated the Security Council's working procedures because the draft hadn't been given the traditional 24 hours for it to be under review. He also complained that it did not take into account an agreement between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to organize a group of experts on Aleppo.
Sison said that Churkin's contention that the U.S. and Russia were on the cusp of reaching a deal was "a made up alibi."
"We will not let Russia string along the Security Council while waiting for a compromise that never seems to come," Sison said.
The Security Council's inability to act over Syria has led to a number of initiatives to bring the matter before the entire 193-member General Assembly where resolutions are non-binding but have the force of demonstrating international opinion. Canada is moving to present a resolution to the General Assembly and a coalition of human rights groups last week called for a special emergency session on Syria.
"Countries on and off the Security Council should immediately work to convene an emergency Special Session of the General Assembly to explore, among other things, ways to hold perpetrators of serious crimes in Syria to account," Louis Charbonneau, U.N. director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
Invited to speak before the council, Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari repeated a frequent justification of his government's actions in Aleppo as part of the effort to fight terrorism.
"From the very first days of the terrorist war imposed on my country, Syria, the United States, France and Britain indeed deserve the name of the three musketeers defending terrorism," Ja'afari said, going on to accuse them of crimes in Libya and Yemen as well.