UNITED NATIONS - Exercising their veto power, Russia and China on Saturday quashed a resolution, backed by the Arab and Western countries, at the UN Security Council, demanding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down amid escalating violence.

The other 13 members of the council, including Pakistan, voted in favour of the resolution aimed at ending the ongoing bloodshed in Syria. Pakistan regretted that the 15-nation council had failed to adopt the motion, despite the consensus reached on the draft resolution among the members on Thursday that addressed some of the objections raised by the Russia.

Explaining his vote, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Abdullah Hussain Haroon called for more work on the draft in view of the worsening situation in Syria. The suffering of the people must come to an end, he added. At the same time, he called for respect for the independence, unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.

The double-veto was inflicted following days of intensive negotiations aimed at overcoming Russian opposition to the draft resolution. Several European envoys said before the session that they felt compelled to call for the vote because of the escalating violent crackdown on the protesters despite Russia’s attempts to seek a delay.

“It is a sad day for this council, a sad day for Syrians and a sad day for all friends of democracy,” French Ambassador Gerard Araud said after the resolution was vetoed.

US Ambassador Susan Rice said her country was ‘disgusted’ by the vote, calling the move ‘shameful’.

Araud said Russia and China had made themselves complicit in a policy of repression carried out by the Assad regime.

But the Russian and Chinese envoys defended their decision to block the resolution which they called unbalanced, while voicing their opposition to regime change in Syria. The two countries also used their veto powers as permanent council members in October to block a previous West-backed attempt to condemn the violence in Syria.

Russian representative in the UN Vitaly Churkin said the resolution did not condemn the Syrian opposition’s armed struggle against the government.

“Some influential members of the international community unfortunately have been undermining the opportunity for political settlement, calling for a regime change, pushing the oppositionists to power,” he said.

Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said the resolution would have been counter-productive.

“Today the Security Council has failed to live up to its responsibility,” German diplomat Peter Wittig said, adding, “The people in Syria have been let down again.”

Mohammed Loulichki, Morocco’s representative to the UN and the sole Arab member of the current council, voiced great regret and disappointment that Moscow and Beijing had struck it down.

But the Chinese envoy put it this way: “China maintains that, under the current circumstances, to put undue emphasis on pressuring the Syrian government or impose any solution will not help resolve the Syrian issue.”