Arab League Backing This Time Around Not Enough to Sway China and Russia

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August 28, 2013 – When the 22-nation Arab League on March 12, 2011 endorsed calls for a no-fly zone over Libya, it cleared the way for the UN Security Council to authorize military intervention five days later.

The endorsement by the regional group was enough for China and Russia to withhold using their veto. Both countries abstained in the March 17 vote, along with Brazil, Germany and India. China’s envoy Li Baodong specifically mentioned the endorsement of the Arab League as reason why Beijing had not blocked the action.

Similar calls are being made to the Arab League these days to back military action against the Syrian regime, but an endorsement by the League this time around will not get the same response from China and Russia.

Notwithstanding Russia’s diplomatic and military support for Assad, Beijing and Moscow have both expressed concerns that the Security Council mandate in Libya – the protection of civilians using all necessary means – was used as cover for regime change.

Some months after the Libya vote, Baodong distanced himself from his stance on March 17, telling reporters that the Security Council should not be influenced by the decisions of regional groups. 

While Syria’s Arab League seat has been given to the opposition Syrian National Coalition, there is opposition against military intervention by other Arab League members, particularly Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon. Egypt too has spoken against intervention.

The League meet next week in Cairo and reports are that  the group will pass a resolution blaming Assad for the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack and call for referral to the ICC, but not back military intervention.

– Denis Fitzgerald

photo: UN Photo/Marco Castro