UN chief says Security Council must prevent Syria ‘spiraling out of control’
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UN chief says Security Council must prevent Syria ‘spiraling out of control’

Amid war of words between Washington and Moscow, Antonio Guterres tells ambassadors to focus on ‘ending the terrible suffering of the Syrian people’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on January 28, 2018. (AFP/Simon Maina)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on January 28, 2018. (AFP/Simon Maina)

UNITED NATIONS, New York — The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday voiced concern to the Security Council’s five permanent members over the “impasse” on Syria, stressing “the need to avoid the situation spiraling out of control.”

His comments follow the council’s failure to agree on a response to an alleged chemical attack in Syria’s rebel-held Douma over the weekend that has triggered global fury.

“I have also been closely following developments in the Security Council and regret that the Council has so far been unable to reach agreement on this issue,” Guterres said in a statement, referring to members the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain.

“Today, I called the Ambassadors of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council to reiterate my deep concern about the risks of the current impasse and stressed the need to avoid the situation spiraling out of control,” the UN chief said.

“Let us not forget that, ultimately, our efforts must be about ending the terrible suffering of the Syrian people,” he added.

On Tuesday the deeply divided council failed to pass a resolution to launch or support a probe into the alleged use of chemical weapons Saturday in Douma, near Damascus, despite three separate votes on rival proposals from the United States and Russia.

Medical workers treating toddlers following an alleged poison gas attack in the opposition-held town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, April. 8, 2018 (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

Washington and Moscow on Wednesday were locked in an increasingly tense stand-off on Syria, with US President Donald Trump warning that “missiles will be coming” against the Syrian regime in response to the alleged attacks, as Russia scrambled to deflect blame from its ally Bashar Assad.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that although rising tensions in a “chaotic world” have been causing anxiety, he hopes that “common sense will prevail.”

Speaking to new ambassadors at the Kremlin, Putin said that “the state of world affairs cannot but cause anxiety. The situation in the world is becoming all the more chaotic.

“Nonetheless, we hope that common sense will prevail and international relations will go on a constructive course, that all the world’s systems will become more stable and predictable,” he continued.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov in Moscow, Russia, April 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Russian’s foreign ministry said Wednesday that Washington was using the alleged chemical attack as a pretext to target Syria, and that the threats were hindering the government’s efforts to fight “terrorism.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia was seeking “unbiased investigation before delivering verdicts,” the Tass news agency reported.

Addressing the possibility of a US strike, he added, “I want to hope that all countries will avoid steps which essentially haven’t been sparked by anything and which may destabilize the fragile situation in the region.”

The Russian state news agencies RIA Novosti and Tass meanwhile reported that a high-level Russian delegation arrived in Syria, where it was going to meet with Assad.

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