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UN in deadlock after US and Russia vote against each other to investigate Syria chemical weapons attack

US Ambassador Nikki Haley says the UN has ‘showed our complete failure to protect the Syrian people’

The United Nations was deadlocked as the US and Russia voted against each other over an investigation into the recent suspected chemical attack in Syria.
Each country placed a resolution before the Security Council to vote on. The US text was vetoed by Russia while the Russian text was not adopted because it did not gain enough votes.
In what has become characteristic of these meetings, the US and UK traded diplomatic barbs with Russia over the country’s “support” for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley accused of using chemical weapons. After the votes, she expressed disappointment, saying it “showed our complete failure to protect the Syrian people”.
The US resolution had proposed an independent mechanism for investigating the 7 April attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, where 60 people were killed and at least 1,000 injured in what appeared to be a chlorine gas attack. It also called for an “attribution” clause that would identify the perpetrator of the attack.
Russia, meanwhile, proposed that the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres choose the investigators but that the results be reviewed by Russia for “acceptance” prior to making them public, according to Ms Haley. It also did not contain any clause to assign attribution of the suspected attack.
She said the US had worked with other Security Council members to ensure their concerns about establishing a “truly independent”, impartial and transparent investigation were taken into account – including provisions from Russia. However, she said the US then made “common sense” changes to the document that was put up for vote today. “We accepted every recommendation that did not compromise impartiality,” she said.
“You’re either for an independent, impartial investigation or you’re not,” Ms Haley said, adding that Russia’s negotiation on the mechanism indicated they were only interested in protecting their ally in Damascus, not in actually finding out who carried out the alleged chemical attack.
She said the Security Council had been strung along for “month after month” by Mr Assad’s regime. His government avoided sanctions through its support from Russia and sometimes China, she said.
“Russia chose the Assad regime again over the unity of this council,” she added.
Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, insisted the US resolution was just a means of justifying American military action against Syria. The US has “simply been looking for a pretext” to show in Washington, he said.
Bolivia agreed. Ambassador Sacha Llorenty said that he voted against the US resolution because Bolvia objected to bringing a resolution to vote that the US knew would not pass, and that it appeared to have been drafted as a way to warrant another US missile strike in Syria.
Both referenced the US missile strike last April after the suspected chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun.
Mr Nebenzya forcefully insisted Russia was “in Syria at the invitation of the legal government”. Ms Haley and the US were trying to “undermine the authority of the Security Council” by bringing repeated resolutions against the regime in Syria that they know will not pass without a Russian veto, he added.
Britain’s Ambassador to the UN, Karen Pierce, said “Russia has crossed the line in international order” and that its very “credibility” as a member of the Security Council was at stake over its continued support of Damascus.
“Russia would rather cross the WMD [weapons of mass destruction] line than risk” any sanctions against its ally in Syria, Ms Pierce said. UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson later tweeted that that Russia was “holding the Syrian people to political ransom” by supporting Mr Assad’s regime.
Ms Pierce pointed out that the Russian ambassador had repeatedly said there were “no traces” of a chemical attack despite footage and some evidence of chlorine gas cannisters in Douma, but asked “no traces found by whom?” She reminded the Security Council that Russia is not authorised to carry out its own investigations into the alleged chemical attack.
Ms Pierce accused Russia of having “abused” the power of a veto to protect the regime of Mr Assad.
The UK, she said, is against the concept Russia is pushing, which suggests sovereign states are “above” following international laws and norms.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “outraged by the continued reports of use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic”.
He added: “I reaffirm my full support for the [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] and its fact-finding mission in undertaking the required investigation into these allegations.”
US President Donald Trump has condemned the attacks as “sick” after pictures and video of several children suffering or dead from the alleged chemical attack surfaced. He also said “nothing is off the table” in terms of a possible US response. Mr Trump has cancelled an upcoming trip to South America to apparently focus on the situation in Syria.

The Independent

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