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Syrian conflict

Russia fails in bid at UN to condemn US-led strikes on Syria after only China and Bolivia vote in support

By contrast, eight countries voted against the Russian draft – the US, UK, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Kuwait, Poland and Ivory Coast. Four countries abstained – Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Equatorial Guinea and Peru.

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 April, 2018, 8:55am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 April, 2018, 9:13am

A Russian bid for the United Nations Security Council to condemn US, British and French air strikes on Syria over a suspected chemical weapons attack failed after only China and Bolivia joined Russia to vote in favour of a draft resolution.

The 15-member council met on Saturday, at Russia’s request, the fifth time it has met on Syria since a suspected deadly poison gas attack in the Syrian town of Douma a week ago.

The United States, France and Britain fired 105 missiles overnight in retaliation, targeting Syria’s chemical weapons programme.

“Why didn’t you wait for the outcome of the investigation you called for?” Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said after the vote.

He accused the United States, France and Britain of “demonstrating a blatant disregard for international law.”

“I hope hot heads will cool down and that will be it,” he told reporters.

International investigators from the global chemical weapons watchdog are in Syria and were due to start their inquiry on Saturday into the suspected toxic gas attack. Russia and Syria have said there was no evidence of a chemical weapons attack.

The United States, France and Britain defended their military action as legal during the Security Council meeting.

“We are confident that we have crippled Syria’s chemical weapons programme. We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said.

“If the Syrian regime uses this poison gas again, the United States is locked and loaded,” Haley said.

During an address to the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all states “to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate matters and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people.”

Eight countries voted against the Russian-drafted text on Saturday, while Peru, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea abstained. A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States to pass.

The council failed on Tuesday to approve three draft resolutions on chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Russia vetoed a US text, while two Russian-drafted resolutions failed to get a minimum nine votes to pass.

France, the United States and Britain planned to put forward a new draft resolution aimed at dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons programme, wiping out terrorism, demanding a ceasefire across Syria and finding a political solution to the conflict, French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre told the council on Saturday.

How the world reacted

“As always, we oppose the use of force in international relations and call for respect for other countries’ sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Any unilateral military action bypassing the Security Council runs contrary to the purpose and principles of the UN charter and violates the principles of international law and the basic norms governing international relations, and will further complicate the Syrian issue.” - China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying

“The use of chemical weapon is extremely inhumane and we cannot absolutely tolerate that. Japan supports the determination of the US, the UK and France not to allow the use and proliferation of chemical weapons.” - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

“By continuing to employ chemical weapons against innocent Syrian civilians, the Assad regime has violated international law and abandoned its own commitments to the international community. These strikes are not seeking to escalate the conflict in Syria, but these violations of international law and norms cannot be allowed to continue.” - Australian Defence Minister Marisa Payne

“It has always been Bulgaria’s position that no cause justifies the killing of innocent people, including children; that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime and the strike on Syrian targets was a response to a war crime.” - Bulgarian government statement. Bulgaria currently holds the rotating EU presidency

“Strikes by US, France and UK make it clear that Syrian regime together with Russia & Iran cannot continue this human tragedy, at least not without cost. The EU will stand with our allies on the side of justice.” - Tweet by European Council President Donald Tusk

“Before the attack took place last night, Nato allies exhausted all other possible ways to address this issue to the UN Security Council but ... were blocked by Russia ... I am not saying that the attacks last night solved all problems but compared to the alternative to do nothing, this was the right thing to do.” - Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg

“We support the fact that our US, UK and French allies took on responsibility in this way as permanent members of the UN Security Council. The military strike was necessary and appropriate in order to preserve the effectiveness of the international ban on the use of chemical weapons and to warn the Syrian regime against further violations.” - German Chancellor Angela Merkel

“What has occurred in Syria in recent days goes far beyond the constant violation of cease fires. The response to these atrocities is legitimate and proportionate.” - Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

“The people who have been martyred by chemicals is a certain number but the people martyred by conventional weapons is much, much more.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying more must be done to hold the Syrian regime accountable for the hundreds of thousands it has killed using conventional weapons.

“Greece unreservedly condemns the use of chemical weapons and supports efforts to eliminate them ... at the same time, the international community should aim for a political and sustainable solution in Syria that will end the war... (and) allow the return of millions of refugees.”- Greece’s Foreign Ministry

“This was a limited and targeted action to strike the capacity of building or diffusing chemical arms. It cannot and should not be the start of an escalation.” - Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni

“The international community has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible of any attack with chemical weapons. This was not the first time that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against civilians but it must be the last.” - European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

“Canada stands with our friends in this necessary response and we condemn in strongest possible terms” the use of chemical weapons in Syria. - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Venezuela’s government said it “energetically condemns” the attack on Syria, calling it a unilateral action that violates Syria’s sovereignty and “the most basic norms of international law.”

“Mexico reiterates its broadest condemnation of the use of chemical weapons.” - Mexican government statement that condemned the use of chemical weapons but did not explicitly approve or disapprove of the military strikes against Syria.

Additional reporting by Associated Press