Divided UN Security Council wrestles over possible Syrian chemical attack

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Security Council Holds Emergency Meeting on Syria Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, addresses the emergency Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, following reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

As grisly images emerged on the internet of victims killed this weekend in an apparent chemical attack in Syria, the Security Council convened an emergency meeting to weigh multilateral action.

But action remained elusive in a deeply acrimonious Security Council, long divided over how to investigate these alleged attacks and hold those responsible to account.

CGTN’s Liling Tan reports.

Countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Kuwait expressed outrage and alarm at the alleged poison gas attack that reportedly killed at least 70 men, women and children.

While the numbers could not be independently verified, reports and pictures from the Syrian White Helmets showed bodies in basements and were shared across social media Twitter.

A majority of Council members, mostly western nations, blame the Syrian government and Russia’s support for Bashar al-Assad.

They expressed outrage and said they want the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to have unhindered access to investigate the incident, while seeking the re-establishment of a mechanism to investigate reports of chemical weapon attacks, as well as to determine perpetrators and hold them accountable.

A similar investigative process known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) was in place until last year, when Russia vetoed the renewal of that mandate against the objections of other Security Council members. Russia said its accusers were speculating and prejudging before the conclusion of the investigation.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the U.S., UK and France of trying to stoke international tensions, and called on “Western politicians to scale down their hawkish rhetoric” in order to “cease the reckless spillover of threats to global security.”

He also told the Council that Moscow has warned the U.S. of grave repercussions if it carries out strikes against Syrian forces.

The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the Security Council has failed to act on Syria because “Russia has stood in its (the Council’s) way every single time.”

“We are quick to condemn chemical weapons in the Security Council, but then Russia prevents any action, vetoing five resolutions on this issue alone. Eleven vetoes all together to save Assad. And our lives go on as usual.”

The Syrian ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari expressed frustration over the allegations against his government, calling them lies.

He also criticized the lack of Security Council discussion about airstrikes on Homs late Sunday, which Damascus believes was carried out by Israel.


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