8231st Security Council Meeting: Threats to International Peace and Security

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13-Apr-2018 02:16:49
Secretary-General warns Security Council to swiftly unite on Syrian conflict, preventing dangerous developments from worsening at 8231st meeting.

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The current state of chaos in the Middle East, including the conflict in Syria, had become a threat to international peace and security, Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council this morning, appealing to the 15‑member body to overcome divisions and prevent dangerous situations from spinning out of control.

He spoke before Council members as they met for the third time in five days to discuss the reported use of chemical weapons - prohibited under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction, known as the Chemical Weapons Convention — in the town of Douma, outside the Syrian capital Damascus, on 7 April and the Council’s failure to agree to establish a mechanism to determine responsibility.

“Increasing tensions and the inability to reach a compromise in the establishment of an accountability mechanism threaten to lead to a full-blown military escalation,” he said. “This is exactly the risk we face today, that things spiral out of control. It is our common duty to stop it.”

Underscoring his outrage about reports of chemical attacks in Syria, he said the seriousness of recent allegations required a thorough investigation with impartial, independent and professional expertise. In that regard, he reaffirmed his full support for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and its fact-finding mission. He went on to recall his letter to the Council on 11 April in which he urged all Member States to act responsibly and appealed to the Council to fulfil its duties and not give up on efforts to agree upon an investigative mechanism.

In the ensuing debate, Bolivia’s representative said some Council members had avoided addressing the main reason for today’s meeting — the threat by some States to launch a unilateral military strike on Syria. The use of chemical weapons was a terrible and criminal act, but the Council must ensure that an investigation into recent allegation was depoliticized. It was clear, however, that the main topic at hand was the threat by some Council members of violating an international legal framework designed to support the weakest States against the most powerful. Calling on all Council members to uphold multilateralism and the rules-based international order, he reminded States that the Council was “not just its five permanent members”, and nor was the United Nations “just the Council”.

The representative of the Russian Federation recalled that the United States had, on 11 April, threatened to strike Syria, where his country had troops deployed for counter-terrorism efforts. Such an attack against a sovereign State could not be allowed to happen, he said, stressing that Syrian armed forces had received instructions on how to respond to an attack. Warning that responsibility for the effects of recent dangerous developments would fall at the feet of the United States and its allies, he called on those countries to reconsider their plan to bring the world to a perilous threshold and to instead support negotiations to end the Syrian conflict.

The representative of the United States said the Council should not condemn those States that were standing up for the principles of the Chemical Weapons Convention. While the President of the United States had not yet made up his mind on whether or not to act in Syria, if he and his allies chose to do so, it would be in defence of international norms, she said, adding that the Russian Federation “can complain all it wants about fake news, but no one is buying its lies or its cover-up.”

In that vein, the United Kingdom’s delegate said the Assad regime, with a track record for using chemical weapons, was highly likely responsible for the Douma attack. The use of chemical weapons must be challenged and the United Kingdom would work with its allies to coordinate an international response. Her Government and the British people were not “Russophobes”, she said, but the Russian Federation’s actions had led to the current situation. She added that the international order must not be sacrificed for the Russian Federation’s desire to protect its ally at all costs.

China’s representative said the international community currently was “at the crossroads of war and peace”. Any unilateral actions ran counter to the principles enshrined in the Charter, which protected Syria’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. Urging all parties to remain calm and avoid any actions that would escalate the situation, he called on the international community to never waver in supporting peaceful efforts to settle the conflict promptly, justly and peacefully.

The representative of Kazakhstan said it was time to tap into all the tools of preventive diplomacy to escape the consequences of military action. Like several other speakers, he agreed with the Secretary-General that the situation must not be allowed to spiral out of control, and appealed to Council colleagues to “go the extra mile” towards restoring unity and to “turn our words into real deeds”.

Syria’s representative, speaking at the end of the debate, said his Government recognized the use of chemical weapons was a war crime. However, war in itself was a crime and should be prevented. The truth was that three permanent Council members were again dragging the world into conflict and oppression. Noting that the OPCW fact-finding mission, at the invitation of the Syrian Government, was slated to begin its work in the coming hours, he called on the Council to stand against attempts to impose the “rule of the jungle”. If the United States, United Kingdom and France believed they could violate the law by striking Syria, his Government would be forced to invoke Article 51 of the Charter which provided it with a legitimate right to self-defence. “This is not a threat,” he said, “it is a promise.”

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Sweden, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Ethiopia, Netherlands, Poland, Côte d’Ivoire and Peru.

The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended it 12:24 p.m.
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