UNITED NATIONS - Russia and China joined forces Thursday to block adoption of a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at establishing a cease-fire in northwestern Syria and gaining full access for humanitarian workers to the province of Idlib.
The two veto-wielding powers blocked the text put forward by drafters Belgium, Germany and Kuwait, who hold the Syria humanitarian file on the Security Council.
"We remain convinced that the council cannot stay silent and must act," German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said. "That is why we have tabled this humanitarian resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities."
But Russia said the text was "doomed to failure" and ignored the need for fighting terrorists. Thursday's veto was its 13th on Syria since the conflict began in 2011.
The Syrian air force, with support from the Russians, has carried out months of airstrikes on Idlib, one of the last opposition strongholds in Syria. More than 3 million Syrians live in the province. It has become a haven not just for Syrians displaced from other parts of the country, but also for some fighters and members of terrorist groups who have sought havens there. It is those elements that the Syrians and Russians say they are seeking to eliminate.
"The phase of armed combat in the Syrian conflict has almost come to end," Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.
Council colleagues and the United Nations have said Russia and Syria must respect international humanitarian law and principles including distinction, proportionality and precaution in their military operations to avoid killing civilians and damaging hospitals and schools.
"The world knows that despite their denials, Russian and Syrian planes dominate the skies in northwest Syria, and so far, the Russian Federation has failed to comply with the U.N.'s deconfliction arrangements intended to keep civilians and hospitals safe," U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft said. "We are disappointed that China has decided to be complicit in these activities and joined Russia in its decision to veto the resolution."
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has created a board of inquiry to look into strikes on hospitals and schools in the area that were on a so-called deconfliction list to protect them from harm. They are due to begin work on Sept. 30.
After vetoing the Belgian, German and Kuwaiti proposal, Russia and China put forward their own draft resolution. It received only two positive votes - their own.