image image

Syrian conflict

Russia vetoes US bid to form new Syria chemical weapons inquiry - but loses its own bid for a new probe as America mulls military strike

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2018, 2:49am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2018, 4:17am

Russia on Tuesday vetoed a US-drafted UN Security Council resolution that would have created a new inquiry to ascertain blame for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. 

Twelve council members voted in favour, while Bolivia joined Russia in voting no, and China abstained. A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States to pass. 

Shortly afterward, Russia lost its own attempt to set up an inquiry after its own draft resolution only received six votes in favour. Seven members voted against the Russia bid and two abstained.

The Russian draft would have required investigators to report to the Security Council, which could then attribute responsibility.

“This resolution is the bare minimum that the council can do to respond to the attack,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the council before the vote on the US bid, referring to reports of a deadly poison gas attack in Syria’s Douma. 

This is the 12th time Moscow has blocked action on Syria by the council during the country’s seven-year-old conflict.

A previous UN-mandated inquiry was shut down in November when Russia vetoed an extension of its mandate, slamming the investigation as flawed.

China warns against military action in Syria

The United States and other Western powers are considering taking military action over Saturday’s attack.

US President Donald Trump on Monday warned of a quick, forceful response once responsibility for a suspected chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma on Saturday was established, thrusting Syria’s conflict back to the forefront of international concern.

The key difference between the two drafts is that the US one would mandate an inquiry to lay blame for chemical weapons attacks in Syria, while the Russian draft would require investigators to report to the Security Council, which would then attribute responsibility.

Russia also asked the council to vote on a second new draft resolution on Tuesday that would specifically support sending investigators from the global chemical weapons watchdog to the site of an alleged deadly attack last Saturday.

“US, UK and France can prove they want to establish truth by supporting this move,” Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

Donald Trump warns US response to chemical attack in Syria will come within 48 hours 

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Tuesday that inspectors would travel to the Syrian rebel-held town of Douma to investigate reports of the attack that killed as many as 60 people.

The Syrian government and Russia said there was no evidence that a gas attack had taken place and the claim was bogus. 

In a separate incident, a Russian warplane this weekend flew over a French warship at low altitude in the eastern Mediterranean, a deliberate breach of international regulations, a French naval source said on Tuesday.

The incident comes as tensions mount between Russia and Western nations following a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria on April 7. At least 60 people were killed in the attack, according to a Syrian relief agency.

France, the United States and their allies are considering a coordinated military response after accusing the Russia-backed Syrian government of being behind the attack. Damascus and Moscow have denied a chemical attack took place.

It was reported that the Russian plane had flown over frigate Aquitaine over the weekend and was fully-armed.

The Aquitaine is equipped with 16 cruise missiles and 16 surface-to-air missiles. It is currently operating off Lebanese shores alongside US ships as part of France’s contingent fighting Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

“The flight took place several days ago,” a French naval source said, adding that France had contacted Russian authorities over the matter.

“Passes by military aircraft over warships are things that happen at sea. When it is deemed too close, the opposing party is notified,” the source said.