Russia and China on Thursday vetoed a US push for the United Nations Security Council to call for free and fair presidential elections in Venezuela and unhindered aid access.
The US draft resolution garnered the minimum nine votes, forcing Russia and China to cast vetoes. South Africa also voted against the text, while Indonesia, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast abstained.
Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over a US-led campaign for international recognition of Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader and head of the country’s elected National Assembly, over President Nicholas Maduro.
Guaido last month declared himself the interim head of state.
“We are seriously concerned about the fact that today’s meeting may be exploited as a step for preparations of a real, not humanitarian, intervention … as a result of the alleged inability of the Security Council to resolve the situation in Venezuela,” Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.
Two draft resolutions where presented during the meeting, one by the US and the other by Russia.
The U.S. draft resolution received nine “yes” votes — the minimum number required for adoption — and three “no” votes from veto-wielding Russia and China as well as South Africa. Three countries abstained, Indonesia, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast.
The vote on the Russian draft was four in favor, seven against and four abstentions, which meant its defeat for failing to win the minimum support. If it had received nine votes, Abrams made clear the Trump administration would have vetoed it.
US President Donald Trump has said all options are on the table in dealing with Venezuela, although US special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, has denied Russian accusations that Washington is preparing to intervene militarily.
Ahead of the Security Council vote on Thursday, French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre, in support of the US-drafted resolution, said it “does not represent a legal basis for a use of force, nor an attempt to undermine the sovereignty of Venezuela.”
The U.S. draft urged “the peaceful restoration of democracy” in Venezuela, free and fair presidential elections and the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to all people in need.
The Russian draft expressed concern at threats to use force against Venezuela and interfere in the country’s domestic affairs, and would have reaffirmed the government’s primary role in initiating international assistance. It also called for peaceful settlement of disputes and a political solution, and it reaffirmed the primary role of the government in seeking and consenting to international aid.
The United States and dozens of other nations have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, but Maduro still controls the military, state institutions and oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, which provides 90 per cent of the country’s export revenue.
“The Venezuelan affairs should be decided by the Venezuelan people,” China’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Wu Haitao said.
The United States targeted Venezuela’s government with new sanctions on Monday and called on allies to freeze the assets of state-owned PDVSA after deadly violence blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the country over the weekend.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington is still working on plans to get humanitarian aid delivered to Venezuela.
Updated: Feb 28, 7:06pm