8233rd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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14-Apr-2018 02:42:16
Following air strikes against suspected chemical weapons sites in Syria, Security Council rejects proposal to condemn aggression at 8233rd meeting.

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On the heels of air strikes meant to hamper Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons, the Security Council today rejected a proposal by the Russian Federation to condemn such aggression by the United States and its allies over suspected chemical weapons use in the country, amid pressure from the Secretary-General to abide by the tenets of international law.

The draft resolution — which was defeated by a recorded vote of 8 against (Côte d’Ivoire, France, Kuwait, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States) to 3 in favour (Bolivia, China, Russian Federation), with 4 abstentions (Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Peru) — would have demanded the United States and its allies immediately cease such actions and refrain from any further use of force in violation of international law.

It also would have expressed grave concern that such acts had taken place at a time when the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding mission had begun to collect evidence in the Syrian city of Douma.

Briefing the Council, Secretary-General António Guterres said it was his duty to remind States of their obligation, particularly in peace and security matters, to act consistently with the Charter of the United Nations and with international law in general.

“I urge all Member 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,” he asserted. “If the law is ignored, it is undermined.”

Speaking before the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation said his Government had called for the meeting — the fifth that week on the Syria situation — to discuss aggressive actions by the United States. It was shameful that, in justifying its aggression, that Government had cited its Constitution. Washington, D.C, must learn: the international code of behaviour regarding the use of force was regulated by the Charter.

Decrying that the United Kingdom and France had taken part in such an illegal military venture, he said: “You’re constantly tempted by neo-colonialism. There is no serious work you’re doing in the Council. You don’t consult us, yet claim otherwise.” The conflict could end within a day if Washington, D.C, London and Paris ordered their hand-picked terrorists to stop fighting the Syrian authorities.

The United States delegate, meanwhile, said the time for talk had ended the previous night when her country, along with the United Kingdom and France, had acted, not in revenge, punishment or a symbolic show of force, but to deter the future use of chemical weapons by holding the Syrian regime accountable.

She said a disinformation campaign by the Russian Federation was in full force. However, a large body of information demonstrated Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s culpability. The targets selected were at the heart of the regime’s illegal chemical weapons programme, and the action taken by the three countries had been legitimate and proportional. In the coming weeks, the Council should reflect on its role in defending the international rule of law.

Along those lines, the United Kingdom’s delegate said any State was permitted under international law to take measures to alleviate extreme humanitarian suffering. Having met 113 times on the Syria issue since the war had begun, it was not for want of diplomatic efforts that the Council found itself in the current position. Nor was it illegal to use force to stop the use of chemical weapons. She proposed that the Council use its upcoming retreat, hosted by Sweden and including the Secretary-General, to reflect on the next steps and return to the political process.

France’s delegate said his Government had no doubt about the Assad regime’s responsibility in the attack, citing the report just published by its intelligence services and suggesting that those distorting the facts review it. By ordering the 7 April attack, the regime understood that it was testing the global threshold for tolerance. “Silence is no longer a solution”, he said, and the Council could no longer tolerate the trivialization of chemical weapons use.

Syria’s delegate assured the Council that the OPCW group of experts had arrived at midday and would hold a meeting with authorities at 7 p.m. local time. The Government would provide every support to that delegation. He asked the Secretariat to distribute copies of the Charter to the representatives of the United States, United Kingdom and France, as those aggressors were not interested in a transparent and independent investigation, but rather in undermining the fact-finding mission.

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

The meeting began at 11:08 a.m. and ended it 1:50 p.m.
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