UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia's ambassador to the United Nations said his country will veto a U.N. Security Council resolution to refer the crisis in Syria to the International Criminal Court, calling it a "publicity stunt" and warning that it will harm efforts to end the violence by political means.
The conflict is now into its fourth year, and tense peace talks have gone so poorly that the joint U.N.-Arab league envoy who tried to broker them has announced he will resign.
Dozens of countries are urging the Security Council to refer the Syria crisis to the world's permanent war crimes tribunal so it can investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity by all sides.
France has called for a vote on the resolution Thursday. But permanent council member Russia has vetoed three previous resolutions on Syria, and Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters his country would do the same with this one. Moscow is Syria's closest ally.
Churkin said Russia sees the French-drafted resolution "as simply a publicity stunt which will have a detrimental effect, unfortunately, on our joint efforts in trying to resolve politically the crisis in Syria."
French Ambassador Gerard Araud later responded, telling reporters, "He can't argue against it saying it will undermine a political process, because there is no political process."
Lobbying around the Security Council resolution has continued this week, with at least 58 countries taking the unusual step of appealing to all 193 U.N. member states to show their support by co-sponsoring the resolution.
Syria is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court, so the only way it can be referred to The Hague, Netherlands-based tribunal is by the Security Council. The council has previously referred conflicts in Darfur and Libya to the court, but not with so many non-council members signing on in support.
Syria, too, has been pressing U.N. member states over the vote. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari sent a letter Tuesday asking countries not to support the resolution. A copy of the letter, seen by The Associated Press, calls the proposal "biased" and an effort to "sabotage any chance of peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis led by the Syrian people themselves."
Activists say more than 150,000 people have been killed in the years of fighting.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed.