|Khalid bin Mohamed Al-Attiyah, Qatar’s foreign affairs minister, says the China-Russia veto was surprising [Reuters]|
Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah, Qatar’s minister of state for foreign affairs, has said the vetoes on Saturday of a United Nations Security Council draft resolution on the Syria crisis sent “a very bad signal to [President Bashar al-Assad] that there is a licence to kill”.
Other Western and Arab leaders have echoed Qatar’s reaction to the second double veto from Russia and China of a Security Council resolution meant to condemn Damascus for the violence the UN estimates has killed 5,400 people since March 2011.
In an interview with Al Jazeera’s Simon McGregor-Wood, Khalid Al-Attiyah spoke about the outcome of the UN vote.
Simon McGregor-Wood: What is your reaction to the veto from China and Russia?
Khalid Al-Attiyah: We were expecting an abstain, rather than a veto, from the Russians and the Chinese, bearing in mind the discussions we had earlier with them. We stayed three days in New York trying to address their fears. Russia had red lines and we have addressed those fears.
SMW: Are you surprised and disappointed?
KAA: We were surprised by the double veto … for sure, it is disappointing for us because the signal that was sent now is a license to kill.
What message will Assad take from this? I hope he will not take this as a signal to go ahead with the security arrangement. I wish he sits back and thinks. The Arab League is meeting on Saturday and this issue has the support of the whole world, nearly. We have to wait and see what the Arab League comes up with on Saturday and we will take it from there.
SMW: What should happen next, given the escalation of violence?
KAA: The fact is that there are more women and children being killed and shelled. And we will keep the Arab League work going on.
We have a coherent [understanding] among the Arabs and I think we will have some serious discussions and options to be tabled in our meeting on Saturday.
SMW: Some would say, given the level of violence, that it isn’t only a Syrian decision; it is an international war crime court’s decision. Would you agree with that?
KAA: At the end of the day, killing one person or killing 100 innocent persons is the same. Humanity does not reject this attitude
SMW: Do you think Assad should stand trial for war crimes?
KAA: I think whomever is involved, whose hands have the blood of Syrians or other innocent people should stand trial.
SMW: Can you imagine circumstances where the Arab League or Qatar would support the active arming of civilians?
It is not the position of Qatar or the Arab League to supply arms. Our mandate, our clear mandate, is to stop the killing in Syria, put the regime with the opposition at one table, and start a serious dialogue to bring Syria out of this chaos.