12 July:Russia and China vetoed a Western-backed draft resolution in the UN Security Council that would have imposed arms embargo against Zimbabwe and travel ban on President Robert Mugabe and 13 other top officials.
After the US and its allies failed to prevail over Russia and China to abstain from voting to allow the resolution to be adopted, the major powers clashed questioning the motives of the each other.The resolution got nine votes just the number needed to be adopted but among five opposing the measures were veto-wielding Russia and China.
Indonesia remained abstained.South Africa, Libya and Vietnam also opposed the resolution whereas, Belgium, Burkino Faso, Costa Rica, Italy, Croatia and Panama joined the US, Britain and France in voting for it.
In the angry exchanges that followed within and outside the Council, American Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad slammed Russia for what he called taking "U-turn" from the position it had taken at Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Japan where it had joined in backing the sanctions.
"The Russian performance has raised questions about its reliability as a G-8 partner," Khalilzad said in a statement reminiscent of cold war era.Expressing disappointment over the veto, he said, "China and Russia stand with Mugabe against the people of Zimbabwe. A majority of Council members stand with the Zimbabwean people."
But the Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin hit back, accusing the US and its allies of trying to take the Council in a territory beyond preserving international peace and security which is its mandate under the charter.
Describing the resolution as "even more obvious attempt to take the Council beyond its charter prerogatives and beyond maintaining international peace and security," Churkin said Russia believes that such practices are "illegitimate and dangerous" a very strong term in diplomatic parlance.
Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said Beijing desired the dialogue between Zimbabwean government and opposition parties to resolve the issue and that the language of the resolution was unacceptable.
Expressing his disappointment over Russia and China casting veto, British Ambassador John Sawers denied that it constituted interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe, saying resolutions was on similar lines that had been adopted in case of Sierra Leone, Sudan and Somalia.
Before the vote, Ambassador Boniface Guwa Chidyausiku of Zimbabwe stressed that "political dialogue is ongoing between the contending parties" in the country, adding that in his inauguration statement, Mugabe "reached out to the opposition and said that it was now imperative for the nation to look forward to the future with a sense of unity."
But the United States, one of the resolution’s 9 co-sponsors, disagreed."There are no serious, substantive negotiations underway between the Mugabe regime and the opposition," Khalilzad said after the vote.
He said there is "no doubt" that the situation in Zimbabwe where Mugabe was sole candidate in last month’s presidential run-off after "violence and intimidation directed towards the opposition led to the withdrawal of their candidate Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)" impacts peace and security in the region.
Sawers denied that the resolution was "an attempt to undermine ongoing mediation efforts," by South Africa as some of the opponents had alleged.
Zimbabwe’s problems, Churkin said: "cannot be resolved by artificially elevating them to the degree of a threat to international peace and security. The Council’s application of enforcement measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter has no foundation and is excessive."
Speaking to reporters following the open meeting, Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said adopting the resolution would have been "counterproductive to the initiatives and efforts now underway by the Africans to find a solution to the problem in Zimbabwe."
Echoing his comments, Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa said that his delegation voted against the draft given his country’s membership in the African Union (AU) and the South African Development Community (SADC).
He added that the AU Summit, which ended last week in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, did not call for sanctions against Zimbabwe and instead encouraged Mugabe and Tsvangirai "to honour their commitments to initiate dialogue with a view to promoting peace, stability, democracy and reconciliation of the Zimbabwean people."
Further, the AU voiced its appreciation to SADC for its efforts to reconcile the parties, Kumalo said.Earlier this week, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told the Council that the crisis in Zimbabwe not only represents a "moment of truth" for democracy on the continent but also poses a "challenge to the world."
In 29th March presidential elections, Tsvangirai had defeated Mugabe but the margin was not sufficient to avoid run off.
During run off, Tsvangirai withdrew after large scale violence which opposition and human rights groups blamed on Mugabe’s supporters and as an attempt to intimidate Tsvangirai’s supporters.