UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) – Russia on Saturday (April 14) failed to win UN backing for a condemnation of military strikes launched by the United States, Britain and France on Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack.
A Russian-drafted resolution won three votes at the Security Council, far below the nine votes required for adoption. Eight countries voted against and four abstained.
The Russian measure would have condemned the “aggression” against Syria and demanded that the three allies refrain from any further strike.
The vote was held after the United States warned that it was “locked and loaded,” ready to launch more military strikes on Syria if President Bashar al-Assad’s forces carry out a new chemical weapons attack.
“I spoke to the President this morning and he said: If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said.
“When our President draws a red line, our President enforces the red line,” she said.
Earlier, US President Donald Trump had made clear that the US was prepared to sustain the strikes until Syria stops using chemical weapons.
"The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons," he said in a televised address from the White House.
"We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of its use of prohibited chemical agents."
Britain argued at the UN meeting that the strikes were “both right and legal” to alleviate humanitarian suffering from repeated use of toxic gas in attacks in Syria’s seven-year war.
The United States, Britain and France launched air strikes in response to a suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Douma a week ago that killed at least 40 people.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the West of “hooliganism” and demanded that it “immediately end its actions against Syria and refrain from them in the future.”
“You are not only placing yourselves above international law, but you are trying to re-write international law,” Nebenzia said after the vote.
China and Bolivia supported the Russian measure, while the three allies along with Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland, Kuwait and Ivory Coast opposed it. Peru, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea abstained.
MOST SERIOUS THREAT
Air strikes by the allies on Saturday hit three targets that Western officials said were linked to chemical weapons development in the Damascus and Homs areas.
Addressing told the council, Haley said the United States was confident that the military strikes had crippled Syria’s chemical weapons programme.
“We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will,” she said.
Moving to return to diplomacy, France said it was working with the United States and Britain on a draft resolution that would address chemical weapons use, the humanitarian crisis and the future of the peace process in Syria.
The measure would provide for the creation of an inquiry to identify perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks, allow access for aid convoys and re-launch stalled peace talks in Geneva, French diplomats said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who delayed a trip to Saudi Arabia to deal with the Syria crisis, said he had asked special envoy Staffan de Mistura to return to New York as soon as possible to chart a way forward.
Addressing the council, Guterres urged all countries to uphold international law and warned that “Syria today represents the most serious threat to international peace and security.”
The United States, Britain and France have argued that military action was necessary after Assad’s forces had used toxic gases multiple times in violation of international law.
Russia has countered that the US-led action was aimed at overthrowing Assad and keeping Moscow’s influence in check.