UNITED NATIONS • Russia and China have vetoed a Western- backed UN resolution that would have imposed sanctions on Syria over its use of chemical weapons.
Tuesday's twin vetoes came as peace talks in Geneva showed no signs of progress on ending the nearly six-year war in Syria.
It was the seventh time that Russia, Syria's top military ally, has used its veto power to shield the Damascus regime. China has backed Russia by using its veto six times on Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned ahead of the vote that imposing sanctions on Syria was "completely inappropriate" amid talks in Geneva on ending the war.
US envoy Nikki Haley said: "It is a sad day for the Security Council when members start making excuses for other member states killing their own people."
"The world is definitely a more dangerous place," she told the council after the sanctions measure was rejected.
It is a sad day for the Security Council when members start making excuses for other member states killing their own people. The world is definitely a more dangerous place.
US ENVOY NIKKI HALEY
The resolution - drafted by Britain, France and the United States - won nine votes in favour, while three countries opposed it - Bolivia, China and Russia. Egypt, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan abstained.
UN resolutions need nine yes votes and no veto to be adopted.
The resolution would have put 11 Syrians, mainly military commanders, and 10 entities linked to chemical attacks in 2014 and 2015 on a UN sanctions blacklist.
It included a ban on the sale of helicopters and of chemical agents to the Syrian armed forces or the government.
A UN-led investigation concluded last October that the Syrian air force had dropped chlorine barrel bombs from helicopters on three opposition-held villages in 2014 and 2015.
The joint panel by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also found the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had used mustard gas in a 2015 attack.
The vote marked the first major Security Council action by the Donald Trump administration in the US, which is seeking warmer ties with Russia.
The US has backed rebel groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and leads a military coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Britain and France had circulated the proposed measure in December and the new US administration joined as a co-sponsor of the draft resolution last month, indicating that it was ready to confront Russia on Syria.
Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov echoed Mr Putin's view that imposing sanctions would have undermined peace talks and described the draft resolution as a "provocation" by the Western "troika".
Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi argued that sanctions were premature and that the UN-OPCW panel should be allowed to complete its investigations.
UN-brokered talks that opened in Geneva last Thursday ran into hurdles after Russia insisted that counter-terrorism be added to the agenda - putting pressure on opposition groups with ties to Islamist fighters.
Meanwhile, a senior British general has said the US-led coalition effort against ISIS is killing the group's fighters more quickly than it can replace them, with more than 45,000 killed by coalition air strikes up to last August.
"The enemy cannot sustain the attrition that they are suffering and therefore they lose terrain, they lose battles," Major-General Rupert Jones, deputy commander of the Combined Joint Task Force coalition, said on Tuesday.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS