The UN Security Council rejected on Saturday a Russian resolution calling for condemnation of military strikes launched by the United States, Britain, and France on Syria targets overnight Friday-Saturday in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack earlier this month.
The Russian measure would have condemned the “aggression” against Syria and demanded that the three allies refrain from any further strike.
Only three countries — Russia, China, and Bolivia — voted in favor of the resolution at the end of an emergency meeting of the 15-member council called by Russia on Saturday. Eight countries voted against (the US, Britain, France along with Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland, Kuwait, and Ivory Coast) while Peru, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, and Equatorial Guinea abstained. A resolution needs at least nine “yes” votes to be approved.
The vote reflected the deep divisions in the UN’s most powerful body, which has been paralyzed in dealing with the seven-year Syrian conflict and chemical weapons use in the country.
The US, Britain, and France say they launched airstrikes against Syrian chemical sites after obtaining “proof” that poisonous gas was used last weekend in Douma and in which at least 40 people, including children, were killed. Russia and Syria call the attack fabricated.
On Saturday, the United States warned that it was “locked and loaded,” ready to launch more military strikes on Syria if President Bashar Assad’s forces carry out a new chemical weapons attack.
Britain argued that the strikes were “both right and legal” to alleviate humanitarian suffering from repeated use of toxic gas in attacks in Syria’s seven-year war.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the West of “hooliganism” and demanded that it “immediately end its actions against Syria and refrain from them in the future.”
“You are not only placing yourselves above international law, but you are trying to re-write international law,” Nebenzia said after the vote.
Most serious threat
Air strikes by the allies on Saturday hit three targets that Western officials said were linked to chemical weapons development in the Damascus and Homs areas.
Addressing the council, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the United States was confident that the military strikes had crippled Syria’s chemical weapons program.
“We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will,” she said.
Moving to return to diplomacy, France said it was working with the United States and Britain on a draft resolution that would address chemical weapons use, the humanitarian crisis, and the future of the peace process in Syria.
The measure would provide for the creation of an inquiry to identify perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks, allow access for aid convoys and re-launch stalled peace talks in Geneva, French diplomats said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who delayed a trip to Saudi Arabia to deal with the Syria crisis, said he had asked special envoy Staffan de Mistura to return to New York as soon as possible to chart a way forward.
Addressing the council, Guterres urged all countries to uphold international law and warned that “Syria today represents the most serious threat to international peace and security.”