Council ‘paralyzed’ on new Syria probe

Russia and US vote down each other’s resolutions over chemical weapons use

The United Nationals Security Council remained “paralyzed” on investigating the recent alleged chemical weapons use in Syria with Russia and the United States continuing to shoot down each other’s proposals on Tuesday.

Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution on investigating reports of the recent chemical attack in Douma, a town located northeast of Syrian capital Damascus.

While 12 of the 15 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the US text, Russia and Bolivia voted against it and China abstained. The draft failed to be adopted as Russia has veto power.

Before the vote, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said her delegation had tried hard to incorporate the Russian proposals into the draft so long as they did not compromise the impartiality of the investigation.

She said the US text was “the bare minimum” that the Security Council could do to respond to the attack.

Russia tabled a draft resolution of its own for the same purpose but that too was rejected.

Haley said the main difference between the two texts was that Russia wanted to choose the investigators and assess the outcome while the US text was for a truly independent investigation.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who spoke after Haley, argued that the US draft prejudges the outcome of the investigation.

“Why do you need the mechanism, what do you need it for, when you have already appointed the guilty party before the investigation,” he asked.

Possible use of force

Nebenzia accused the US of pushing for a vote as a pretext for possible use of force against Syria.

Last year, the US launched missile strikes against a Syrian air base from two navy destroyers after the Syrian government was alleged to have used chemical weapons, leading to civilian fatalities.

US President Donald Trump warned Russia on Wednesday of imminent military action in Syria over the suspected poison gas attack, declaring that missiles “will be coming”.

Russia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin had said any US missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launch sites targeted.

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

Tuesday’s veto by Russia was its 12th over Security Council action against Syria since the Syrian civil war started seven years ago.

Russia’s draft was voted on later on Tuesday, receiving six votes in favor and seven against with two abstentions.

To be adopted, a draft needs nine votes, including from all the five permanent members of the council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.

Russia tabled a second draft resolution for vote on Tuesday for an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the watchdog of the Chemical Weapons Convention, into the chemical attack allegations.

It too failed to pass the threshold of nine. While Britain, France, the US and Poland voted against it, six others abstained.

Tuesday’s intensive voting came as Security Council members were striving to set up a mechanism to determine which side was accountable for the chemical weapons use in Syria.

Wu Haitao, China’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, said China remains highly concerned about the situation in Syria and believes all council members should support a Syria-led and Syria-owned political solution to the conflict.

“China always calls for respecting the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria,” Wu said. “We insist on seeking a peaceful solution to the dispute. We oppose the use of force or threat to use force in international relations.”