Fri, Apr 14, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Russia vetoes UN resolution on Syria

‘UNNECESSARY’:The Russian ambassador said the resolution assumed the Syrian government was to blame for the attack, and urged for an investigation instead

AP, New York

Russian Deputy Ambassador to the UN Vladimir Safronkov, left, arrives at the Security Council vote on the situation in Syria at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

Russia on Wednesday vetoed a UN resolution that would have condemned the reported use of chemical weapons in a town in Syria and demanded a speedy investigation, triggering clashes between Moscow and the measure’s Western backers.

The vote on the UN Security Council resolution drafted by Britain, France and the US was 10 in favor and two — Russia and Bolivia — against, with China, Kazakhstan and Ethiopia abstaining.

It was the eighth veto by Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on a Western-backed Syria resolution, and reflected the deep division that has left the UN’s most powerful body struggling to tackle the use of banned chemical weapons and help end the six-year Syrian conflict.

Russian Deputy Ambassador to the UN Vladimir Safronkov told the council that a resolution was unnecessary, and the draft put forward by the Western powers prejudged that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack on Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday last week in which nearly 90 people died.

Safronkov said Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov asked US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during talks earlier on Wednesday in Moscow to jointly request for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) “to immediately put together an independent international mission” to visit Khan Sheikhoun and the air base that the US attacked in retaliation.

Tillerson is considering the request, “and we expect that Washington will have a constructive reaction,” Safronkov said.

Russia has criticized previous investigations carried out by the OPCW and the UN that blamed the Syrian government for at least three chemical weapons attacks without visiting the sites.

Safronkov reiterated on Wednesday that an investigation cannot be conducted remotely and experts must be drawn from a wide geographical basis.

The attack on Khan Sheikhoun was expected to be near the top of the agenda when the OPCW’s executive committee met yesterday at the organization’s headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands.

Safronkov said the Syrian government and Syrian opposition have asked for an independent investigation, “whereas the OPCW is doing nothing, for reasons unknown.”

Looking at the resolution’s supporters sitting around the horseshoe-shaped table in the Security Council, he said: “You are afraid of an impartial investigation” that the Syrian government was being blamed for chemical weapons attacks carried out by extremists.

After the vote, British Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft looked at Safronkov and asked: “How could anyone look at the faces of lifeless children” and yet veto this resolution?

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said: “We want to work with Russia to advance a political process in Syria. We want Russia to use its influence over the Assad regime to stop the madness and the cruelty we see every day on the ground.”

“Today’s vote could have been a turning point,” she said, but “with its veto, Russia said no to accountability ... Russia now has a lot to prove.”

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