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.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said he had closely followed reports of air strikes in Syria conducted by the United States, France and the United Kingdom, noting that, at 21:00 New York time on 13 April, United States President Donald Trump had announced the start of those strikes and indicated that it was targeting chemical weapons capabilities to deter their future use. That announcement had been followed by statements by Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom and President Emmanuel Macron of France. The strikes reportedly had been limited to three military locations: a research centre at the airport in Damascus, an alleged chemical weapons facility near Homs, and an equipment storage site, also near Homs. Both United States and Russian Federation sources had indicated there had been no civilian casualties. The United Nations could not, however, independently verify the details of those reports.
He said that, as Secretary-General, it was his duty to remind Member States of their obligation to act consistently with the Charter of the United Nations and with international law. The Charter was clear on those issues. He called on the Security Council to unite and to exercise its responsibility to maintain international peace and security. It must show restraint in dangerous circumstances and avoid any measures that could escalate matters, he said, recalling that he had repeatedly stressed the need to avoid the situation from spiralling out of control.
“Any use of chemical weapons is abhorrent,” he said. He had already expressed disappointment over the Council’s failure to establish an investigative mechanism and he urged it to do so, stressing that he would engage with Member States to achieve that objective. The lack of accountability only emboldened perpetrators and weakened the international disarmament and non-proliferation architecture. Chemical weapons use in Douma required an investigation using impartial expertise, he said, affirming support for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and its fact-finding mission. That team was in Syria. The operation to visit sites had been completed and they were ready to go.
He said that Syria today represented the most serious threat to international peace and security, featuring proxy wars, national and international militia, foreign fighters from around the world and various terrorist groups, as well as violations of international law, international humanitarian law and the United Nations Charter. For eight years, Syrians had endured “suffering upon suffering”, starvation, civilian attacks, chemical weapons use, sexual violence, torture, detention and enforced disappearances. He called on the Council to act in line with Charter and international law, including norms against chemical weapons. “If the law is ignored, it is undermined” he said, pressing the Council to find ways to advance towards a credible political solution, in line with resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva communiqué, and noting he had asked his Special Envoy for Syria to come to New York for related discussions.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said his delegation had called for today’s meeting to discuss aggressive actions by the United States. It was the fifth meeting that week on the situation in Syria. Citing a special statement by his country’s President, he said that, on 14 April local time, the United States, supported by its allies, had launched air strikes against Syria. Without a mandate from the Council and in violation of the Charter and international norms, an aggressive act against a sovereign State had been carried out. Just as the action taken one year earlier when an air base had come under attack, the United States had used as a pretext a staged chemical attack, this time in Douma.
However, he said, Russian Federation military experts had found neither traces of chlorine nor toxic agents. Despite OPCW dispatching experts to Syria, a group of Western countries, acting with disdain, had taken action. He condemned in the strongest possible terms the attack on Syria, where Russian military personnel were assisting the Government. The United States had only worsened a catastrophic humanitarian situation, pandering to terrorists who had tormented Syrians for seven years and creating waves of refugees. Escalating the situation was destructive for the entire international relations system.
Recalling that Washington, D.C, bore heavy responsibility for outrages in the former Yugoslavia and in Libya, he said the Secretary-General, in the 13 April Council meeting, had also voiced his concern. Yet, Western nations had disregarded such appeals to common sense. It was shameful that, in justifying the aggression, an article of the United States Constitution had been used. Washington, D.C, must learn: the international code of behaviour regarding the use of force was regulated by the Charter. The United Kingdom and France had taken part in an illegal military venture. “You’re constantly tempted by neo-colonialism,” he said. “There is no serious work you’re doing in the Council. You don’t consult us, yet claim otherwise.”
Amid claims of chemical weapons use, he said representatives of the Russian Federation had stated that no such incident had taken place. People had been found who had taken part in that staging, which had been organized by foreign intelligence services. OPCW experts had conducted a field mission. On 10 April, when his country’s draft resolution on the OPCW special mission had been blocked, he had been assured that such a document had not been needed, and that the mission would visit and investigate the sites. However, the 13 April aggression had laid bare that that was not the issue. In 2017, the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had not prevented the United States from conducting air strikes. “You don’t need any investigations,” he said. “You didn’t need them then, you don’t need them today.” Non-governmental organizations controlled by those countries had disseminated rumours through social media. The aggressors blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but had lately shifted responsibility to the Russian Federation, which they claimed could not control a dictator. Those were mendacious accusations. “This is how you want international affairs to be conducted,” he asked. “This is hooliganism” from major nuclear powers.
He said experts had found no trace of activity that would have contravened the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention), noting that scientific facilities in Syria were used for peaceful activities, notably to enhance economic performance. “You want Syria to have no economy at all?” he asked. “Throw this country back to the stone age” and finish off what sanctions had not yet achieved? Western nations were shedding crocodile tears about the suffering of Syrians. The conflict could end within a day. Washington, D.C, London and Paris only had to order their hand-picked terrorists to stop fighting Syrian authorities. The strikes had been conducted against Syrian airfields that were fighting terrorists. Those in the West covered themselves with humanitarian rhetoric — to defeat jihadists — to justify their actions; however, they intended only to divide Syria, as confirmed by the United States refusals to take part in rebuilding areas destroyed by jihadists. Moreover, the strikes had threatened an advancing political process. He questioned what the constant references to the Geneva process were worth if actions by those countries only worked to destroy it. He urged them to immediately end aggressive actions. The Russian Federation had submitted a draft resolution on which he would demand a vote. To the Council, he stressed: “Today is not the time to shirk your responsibilities. The whole world is looking at you. Take a principled stand.”
NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said the time for talk had ended the previous night when 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. A disinformation campaign by the Russian Federation was in full force, but that could not change the facts, as a large body of information demonstrated Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s culpability. The targets selected were at the heart of the Syrian regime’s illegal chemical weapons programme, and the action taken by the three countries was legitimate and proportional. Diplomacy had been given chance after chance, she said, recalling that, in 2013, the Security Council had passed a resolution requiring Syria to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile. The President of the Russian Federation had said that his country would guarantee Syria’s compliance. It had been hoped that diplomacy would succeed, but that had not happened, and while Russia was busy protecting the Syrian regime, that regime knew it could act with impunity, and it did. With Russia’s veto killing the Joint Investigative Mechanism, the Assad regime had been given a green light by Russia to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people. The United States and its allies were not going to let that stand, she said.
“We cannot stand by and let Russia trash every international norm that we stand for and allow the use of chemical weapons to go unanswered,” she said. Her country’s strategy vis-à-vis Syria had not changed and it would continue to call out those who used chemical weapons, as well as those who assisted them. Stating that a major research facility used to assemble chemical weapons had been obliterated, she quoted the United States President as telling her that morning that if such weapons were used again, “the United States is locked and loaded”. When the President drew a red line, he would enforce that red line. In the weeks and months ahead, the Council should reflect on its role in defending the international rule of law, she said, adding that the Russian Federation was mainly responsible for failing to keep Syria to account and that Moscow should reconsider the company it kept. With France and the United Kingdom, the United States had successfully struck at the heart of Syria’s chemical weapons enterprise and they were confident that it had crippled that weapons programme. Her country was prepared to sustain that pressure if the regime was foolish enough to test its will.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said these were uncertain times and the Council was dealing with exceptional circumstances. Coordinated and precise strikes had been carried out to deter Syria’s chemical weapons capability and their use. A full assessment was not yet completed, but the United Kingdom believed the strikes to have been successful. It had undertaken a limited, targeted and effective strike with clear boundaries to avoid escalation, as well as rigorous planning to minimize the impact on civilians while significantly degrading the Syrian regime’s ability to develop and use chemical weapons. She said her Prime Minister had said clearly who was responsible for the atrocity of the use of chemical weapons. A significant body of information had indicated that the Syrian regime had been responsible for the previous weekend’s attack. That information included open source accounts about the use of barrel bombs, the presence of a regime helicopter and the coordination among Syrian military officials of what appeared to be the use on 7 April of chlorine in Douma, where Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) had no presence. The regime’s use of chemical weapons was a serious crime of international concern and a breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention that amounted to a war crime and a crime against humanity.
Emphasizing that any State was permitted under international law to take measures to alleviate extreme humanitarian suffering, she said the history of the Syrian conflict was a litany of violations international law, with the Council meeting 113 times on the issue since the war began. It was not for want of diplomatic efforts that the Council found itself in the current position. Syria had continued to use chemical weapons against its people and failed to answer a long list of serious questions. It also had not declared or destroyed all its chemical weapons, despite its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. At the very least, the Council should have been able to follow up on the Joint Investigative Mechanism’s report by extending its mandate, but that had been repeatedly vetoed by the Russian Federation. In the United Kingdom’s view, it was not illegal to use force to stop the use of chemical weapons, she stated, adding that she would take no lessons in international law from Russia. The United Kingdom, with the United States and France, would continue to pursue a diplomatic solution that must include an end to Syria’s chemical weapons programme and the destruction of its stockpiles, an immediate cessation of hostilities in line with Council resolutions, the Syrian regime’s return to the Geneva talks and its engagement with the agenda set out by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and accountability for the use of chemical weapons and other war crimes in Syria. Concluding, 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.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) had absolutely no doubt about the Assad regime’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack. That morning, France had published the report by its intelligence services, requesting those who had distorted the facts to review that information. For years, Assad and his allies had carried out a strategy of destruction, flouting basic principles of humanity in Aleppo, Homs and eastern Ghouta. For years, it had used the most terrifying weapons of mass destruction — chemical weapons — as had been seen lately in Douma and Khan Sheikhoun, where its responsibility had been established through the Joint Investigative Mechanism. “No one can say they did not know,” he said, as Syria had repeatedly violated its international obligations.
He said the list was long, with violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the 1925 Geneva Protocol, not to mention the humanitarian principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality. Moreover, Syria had violated Council resolutions 2209 (2015) and 2235 (2015), and thus, its United Nations Charter obligations.
Stressing that chemical weapons use against civilians was tantamount to a war crime, he said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in August 2013 had qualified those abuses as crimes against humanity. France had called for a strong response and had carried out all possible efforts to ensure that those horrors did not go unpunished. Recalling the commitment to impose coercive measures under resolutions 2209 (2015) and 2235 (2015), he said the Council had failed to act, due to systematic veto use by the Russian Federation. Thus, it had betrayed its 2013 commitment to guarantee destruction of the Syrian chemical arsenal.
By ordering the 7 April attacks, the Syrian regime understood that it was testing the international threshold of tolerance, he said. “Silence is no longer a solution”, he said, and the Council could no longer tolerate the trivialization of chemical weapons use nor “let the deadly genie of proliferation out of the bottle”. France had kept its word in acting in line with its responsibility in a controlled and transparent action, ensuring communications with actors on the ground. The Charter was not designed to protect criminals, and France’s action was in line with its goals and values. He described the response as proportionate and precise, targeting the main research centre of Syria’s chemical weapons programme and two storage sites.
He said France would continue to seek those responsible for chemical weapons use and bring them to justice. The strikes had been a necessary response, given the chemical massacres in Syria, in line with law and political strategy to end the tragedy in that country. He underscored the imperative of dismantling the Syrian chemical weapons programme, establishing an international mechanism, eradicating terrorism, upholding a ceasefire throughout Syria, allowing full humanitarian access and having a crisis exit strategy that featured an inclusive political solution. France would submit a draft resolution, along with its United Kingdom and United States partners, and he urged the Russian Federation to pressure Syria to enter a negotiated solution.
ZHAOXU MA (China) said his Government had made its position clear a day earlier, expressing profound concern over the escalating tensions in Syria. China had always stood for peaceful dispute settlement and against the use of force. It advocated respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of all nations. In that context, he urged all parties concerned to refrain from any move that could escalate the situation, return to the framework of international law and resolve issues through dialogue. If necessary, the Council must launch an impartial investigation of the suspected chemical weapons attack. Until then, no party must prejudge the outcome, he said, stressing that there was no alternative to political settlement and advocating support for the United Nations as the main mediator in that regard. China would continue its constructive role in efforts to resolve the Syria issue.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) asked: “Who else, if not the leading Council members, should show to other countries an example of compliance to the principles and provisions of the Charter?” Kazakhstan’s long-standing position was that military action was the last resort to be applied only in cases approved by the Council. There had been no such approval of the 13 April military strikes and thus, no justification for that action. He voiced frustration over the air strikes against Syrian objects in Damascus, an act that could have serious repercussions for international peace and security. It was important to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation, and he pressed the parties to adhere to the Charter and international law. He encouraged the United States and the Russian Federation, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group, to find middle ground and a political settlement to the conflict. He voiced concern over the lack of unity over a possible chemical attack in Syria, strongly condemning the use of such agents and calling for an impartial investigation. “We urgently need a political solution,” he said. Only a diplomatic approach, dialogue and confidence-building measures could bring about proper results. The international community must exert political will to reunite in negotiations and to support the aims of both the Astana and Geneva talks.
PAWEL RADOMSKI (Poland) said the international community could not remain inactive in the face of chemical attacks. All necessary measures must be taken to prevent such attacks in the future and decisions taken to identify those responsible and bring them to justice. Poland fully understood the reasons for the decision taken by the United States, United Kingdom and France and it supported that action. It was the Council’s responsibility to set up an investigative mechanism, he said, reiterating his country’s disappointment with the Russian Federation’s politically motivated veto. Poland would continue its international efforts aimed at the complete elimination of chemical weapons, and he called for refraining from actions that would further escalate the situation.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said his country would spare no effort to end the use and proliferation of chemical weapons, nor would it accept impunity for their use. Welcoming the deployment of the OPCW fact-finding mission, he said it was deplorable that the Security Council had failed to agree on a timely, clear and unified response to the repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria. Sweden also regretted that the Russian Federation had again that week blocked the Council from setting up a truly impartial and independent attribution mechanism — something which had contributed to the present situation. “We are at a dangerous moment”, he said, echoing the Secretary-General’s call for restraint and to keep the situation from spiralling out of control. Sweden stood ready to continue efforts to bring the Council together, he said, adding that it was more critical than ever to avoid escalation and revert to diplomacy for a political solution, in line with Council resolution 2254 (2015).
LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) said that France, the United Kingdom and the United States had carried out an understandable and measured response, which made clear that the use of chemical weapons was unacceptable. The Netherlands would settle for nothing less than an independent and impartial attribution mechanism, she said, calling on the Russian Federation to stop opposing that. Emphasizing that the United Nations was bigger than the Security Council alone, she said the Organization’s leadership and the General Assembly must consider all instruments to advance accountability for the use of chemical weapons. Any new mechanism should build on the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism and the OPCW fact-finding mission, she said, adding that the latter must have complete and unhindered access to all information and sites relating to the chemical attack in Douma the previous weekend.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), condemning chemical weapons use as unjustifiable and criminal, by whomever and wherever, said those responsible must be identified, investigated, prosecuted and punished in the most rigorous way possible, and demanded a transparent and impartial investigation. Three permanent members of the Council had used force in breach of the United Nations Charter and the sovereignty of a Member State, and he expressed surprise that permanent Council members, given their greater responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, had bypassed the United Nations. Indeed, they defended multilateralism when it suited them, and discarded it when it did not, which events in 2003 in Iraq and in 2011 in Libya had shown. Rejecting the use of unilateral actions, he decried the air strikes, which represented an attack against the OPCW fact-finding mission and the Council’s duty to maintain international peace and security, as well as the Charter and the entire international community. He asked the Council to consider who had sold weapons to actors bombing civilians in Yemen, or built walls or stepped away from the Paris Agreement on climate change. He cited the United Kingdom’s refusal to return the Malvinas Islands* in describing a range of policies that undermined global peace and security. Bolivia understood that the United States had powerful aircraft carriers, satellites, smart bombs and a huge nuclear weapons arsenal, as well as nothing but scorn for international law. However, there were also the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter, which ultimately, would prevail.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said his Government was committed to the United Nations objectives, also underscoring its respect for State sovereignty, non-interference in State affairs and peaceful dispute settlement. In Syria, there had been a stalemate of international efforts. The Council’s inability to arrive at a political settlement had led to massive displacement and the death of hundreds of thousands of people. Noting that the Council had previously been unified against chemical weapons use in Syria, regardless of the perpetrators, he noted that resolution 2118 (2013) had imposed Chapter VII measures in the case of non-conformity of parties by its provisions. To guarantee implementation, the Council had adopted resolution 2235 (2015), establishing the Joint Investigative Mechanism to determine responsibility for any chemical weapons use. It had identified the authors of that crime. However, the Council’s divide on the matter had only encouraged parties to continue violating its resolutions and international humanitarian law. He called on the Council to overcome its differences and unify to shoulder its responsibilities and overcome the gap to establish a new independent body to investigate responsibility for chemical weapons use in Syria. There was no military solution to the crisis, he said, advocating the position of the League of Arab States, underscoring the importance of the Geneva communiqué and a process that involved all Syrian parties.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said it would have been a serious dereliction of duty on the Council’s part if it had failed to meet after what had transpired the previous evening. For elected Council members, representing 193 Member States, the responsibility was indeed extremely heavy, to the point of being unbearable. For the moment, it appeared that the air strikes had not led to the situation spiralling out of control, “but we don’t take that lightly”. Ethiopia called for maximum restraint, the exercising of wisdom and a quick return to dialogue among the major Powers. It was vital to resume the path of diplomacy, he said, adding: “The alternative would be catastrophic and beyond our imagination.” It was hard to understand what had happened on 13 April, given that the OPCW fact-finding mission was arriving in Syria. While averting further escalation must be the priority, ensuring accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria must not be underestimated, he said, emphasizing that the fact-finding mission must be allowed to carry out a thorough investigation. The sustainable way to ensure accountability was through united and concerted action, including an attribution mechanism, he said, stressing that the truth was becoming difficult to establish.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said the cold war had returned with a vengeance during the early morning hours in Syria, with targeted attacks that violated the United Nations Charter and the principles and norms of international law. Air strikes risked leading to unpredictable and tragic consequences in the Middle East, including the development of nuclear programmes. Noting the presence of OPCW inspectors in Douma, he said that, pending reliable proof of an alleged chemical attack in that place, no act of aggression was justified. The military intervention in Libya in 2011 and its consequences should be a clear lesson to the international community, he said, adding that the use of force in international relations — which his country opposed — would bring no substantial change to the situation in Syria. The OPCW fact-finding mission must carry out its work quickly and report back to the Council as soon as possible, he said, calling also for the establishment, under the Secretary-General’s auspices, of an investigative body to determine who had carried out the chemical attacks.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) urged all actors involved in the Syria conflict to demonstrate restraint and not complicate an already disastrous situation. Respect for the Charter had always allowed the Council to meet world challenges. Based on a conviction in the virtues of multilateralism, the use of force must be authorized by the Council in order to endow those actions with the essential legal authority and avoid any abuses. Only a strong Council representing “the interests of our time” could mobilize Member States in support of its duty to uphold global peace and security. He expressed deep concern over its inability to relaunch dialogue in Syria and side-line partisan actors, unequivocally condemning any chemical weapons use and calling for the establishment of a multilateral mechanism to determine responsibility. Voicing support for the fact-finding mission to shed light on all possible chemical weapons use in Douma, he said the Council’s response could not be a military one. Rather, a solution must be sought in the framework of an inclusive political process, as outlined in resolution 2254 (2015).
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), President of the Security Council for April, speaking in his national capacity, underscored his country’s great concern over events in Syria. Reiterating the need to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control and threatening international peace and security, he condemned any chemical weapons use. Peru supported the urgent deployment of the OPCW fact-finding mission and establishment of an impartial, transparent attribution mechanism. He voiced frustration over the Council’s inability to take a decision on those issues. Any response to crimes committed in Syria, or a solution to them, must be in line with the Charter, international law and relevant Council resolutions, he said, urging restraint and cautioning against any act that could worsen the suffering of Syria’s people.
Ms. PIERCE (United Kingdom), taking the floor a second time, referred to the statement by Bolivia’s representative. She reiterated her country’s position on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgia Islands, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, as well as its position regarding the Chagos Archipelago.
Mr. LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), also taking the floor a second time, reiterated the positon of States in the Latin American region with regard to Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said the Secretary-General was exactly right when he had said on 13 April that the cold war was back. Everyone could recall, after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the books titled The End of History and The Clash of Civilizations, the gist of which was that the peoples of the world could either follow the United States or be attacked by that country. It was “my way or the highway”, as Americans would say. Those who repeated lies were just underscoring the fact that they were liars, he added, wondering also why, if the Governments of those countries which had bombed his country knew the locations of centres for producing chemical weapons, they had not shared that information beforehand with OPCW or its fact-finding mission.
He said he wished to assure Council members that the OPCW group of experts had arrived at midday and would hold a meeting with the authorities at 7 p.m. local time. The Government would provide every support to that delegation. Quoting the representative of the United States as having said that the time for talk was over, he wondered why the Council was meeting today. Its mission was to talk and shed light on the issues, not to simply justify an aggression. Responding to the proposal by the representatives of the United Kingdom and France for a plan of action to be implemented by the Secretary-General, he said Syria proposed an alternative plan that would include reading the United Nations Charter; an immediate halt to support to armed terrorist groups in Syria by the United States, the United Kingdom and France; and an end to lies and fabricated facts being used to justify aggression against his nation. After seven years of a terrorist war that had been imposed upon it, Syria remained determined to destroy those terrorists, he said, adding that it would be his country’s people who determined their own political future, without foreign intervention.
Syria and its many friends and allies were perfectly capable of responding to aggression, he said, emphasizing those provisions of the United Nations Charter dealing with the sovereignty of States and the non-use of force in international relations. He asked the Secretariat to distribute copies of the Charter to the representatives of the United States, United Kingdom and France. Those three countries, at 3:55 a.m. Damascus time, had conducted flagrant violation against Syria’s sovereignty, launching 110 missiles against the capital and other targets. Exercising its legitimate right to defend itself, Syrian air defences had intercepted a number of missiles, although some had reached a research centre located within Damascus. Luckily, damage was material only. The aggressors had decided to intervene directly to revenge the defeat of their proxies in eastern Ghouta, he said, adding that their actions sent a message to terrorists to continue to use chemical weapons not only in Syria, but elsewhere as well. Syria had sent 146 letters to the Council drawing attention to the use of chemical weapons by terrorist groups, but today some delegations were trying to reinvent the wheel and determine the gender of angels. The message being put out by the aggressors was that they were not interested in a transparent and independent investigation, but rather to undermine and pressure the fact-finding mission.
He said that the morning’s aggression was not just aimed at Syria, but also against international law, the United Nations Charter and Member States. A systematic attempt to undermine the work of the fact-finding mission was also being made, with pressure being brought to bear behind closed doors. The United States, United Kingdom and France were liars, spoilers and hypocrites who were trying to exploit the Council to justify a policy of interference and colonialism. They had demonstrated their conviction for the law of the jungle and the law of the strong. He added that Syria was disgusted by the scandalous position taken by Qatar whose “small boys” had permitted aircraft based there to participate in the attack on his country.
Action on Draft Resolution
The Council then failed to adopt a draft resolution submitted by the Russian Federation by a 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).
Mr. SKOOG (Sweden) said he had voted against the draft as its language was unbalanced and not comprehensive, and it did not cover all concerns over the situation. There was an obligation to be in line with the Charter and international law and he urged the Council to unite and exercise its duty in relation to Syria. If there was any encouragement to be drawn, it was that everyone appeared to insist on a sustainable political solution. He voiced full support for the United Nations political process, including through support for the Special Envoy.
Mr. ALEMU (Ethiopia) said he had abstained in the vote on pragmatic grounds. Even if the draft had received 9 votes, it would have been vetoed and held only symbolic value. Ethiopia wished to play a constructive role in diffusing tensions and preventing the situation from spiralling out of control.
Mr. UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said he had abstained in the vote from a belief that all disputes should be resolved through peaceful dialogue based on equal responsibility for peace and security. He called on all parties to refrain from any action that would aggravate tensions.
Mr. NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said he had abstained in the vote out of frustration over the Council’s inability to adopt a resolution establishing an attribution mechanism. With the abstention, he appealed for resumed talks to create such a body so that actions such as those seen the previous day could be avoided. He recalled Sweden’s proposal to introduce the necessary reforms into the resolution to create a mechanism under the Secretary-General’s auspices.
Mr. DELATTRE (France) said the voting result sent a clear message on the Council’s understanding of the motivations of proportional actions taken a day earlier. No one contested that chemical weapons use must be deterred. France would present a draft resolution on the political, chemical and humanitarian tracks of the Syria dossier and work with all Council members for that purpose.
Ms. GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) said she had voted against the draft as it did not provide for the action that the Council urgently needed to take. It ignored the essence of what was required. The Council should act and condemn the use of chemical weapons in Syria, protect that country’s people and hold the Government responsible.
Mr. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said he had voted against the draft, reiterating adherence to the principles of non-use or threat of force and peaceful dispute settlement. Citing a flagrant violation of resolution 2118 (2013), he said the Council had unequivocally expressed its determination to act under Chapter VII in the case of weapons use in Syria. It must agree on a new independent impartial body to investigate any such use and identify those responsible. He called for a return to the political track, under United Nations auspices, in line with the 2012 Geneva communiqué and resolution 2254 (2015).
Mr. MA (China) said his country had always opposed the use of force in international relations, advocating respect for the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of all countries. Any actions bypassing the Council contravened the Charter and would only complicate the Syrian issue. As such, China had voted in favour of the draft. He urged parties to keep calm and return to the framework of international law to resolve issues through dialogue and negotiation, voicing support of the United Nations role in that regard.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said today’s meeting had confirmed that the United States, United Kingdom and France were putting international politics and diplomacy into the realm of myth-making. “The Security Council is in a state of paralysis because of you [and] your constant attempts to hoodwink the international community,” he said. He went on to recall a brochure in Soviet times about military preparations being made by Washington, D.C., and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries. Nothing had changed and they remained the threat to peace. Concluding, he said today was a very sad day for the world, the United Nations and for the United Nations Charter, which had been blatantly violated. “I would like to believe that we would not see a day worse than today,” he added.
Mr. MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), speaking again in his national capacity, said his delegation had abstained because it believed the draft did not adequately address the need to ensure accountability for the use of chemical weapons anywhere in Syria. The text also lacked balance and would not help restore Council unity.
Ms. PIERCE (United Kingdom) said it was obvious why she had voted against the draft. Expressing support for what her counterpart from France had said about the next steps, she said there was no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives were to be saved. Humanitarian intervention was the reason why action had been taken, and that was within the principles and purposes of the United Nations.
Mr. JA’AFARI (Syria), stating that a third of his country was under direct United States military occupation, said Syrian sovereignty had been violated by a permanent Council member. Those Council members who had voted against the Russian Federation’s draft would no longer be partners of his Government in any process leading to a political settlement. Recalling that he was Rapporteur of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, he said that body would continue to work to end the British occupation of the Malvinas.
* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).