Russia casts 10th UN veto on Syria action, blocking inquiry renewal

"Russia has undermined our ability to deter future attacks," US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said

By REUTERS
November 16, 2017 23:21
2 minute read.
UN Security Council

Members of UN Security Council during meeting at UN headquarters in New York , October 14. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Russia cast its 10th veto on Thursday of United Nations Security Council action on Syria since the war began in 2011, blocking a US-drafted resolution to renew an international inquiry into who is to blame for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

The mandate for the joint inquiry by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which found the Syrian government used the banned nerve agent sarin in an April 4 attack, expires at midnight Thursday.

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A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China to be adopted. The US draft text received 11 votes in favor, while Russia and Bolivia voted against it and China and Egypt abstained.

The vote sparked a war of words between Russia and the United States in the council, just hours after White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump believed he could work with Russian President Vladimir Putin on issues like Syria.

The April 4 sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun that killed dozens of people prompted the United States to launch missiles on a Syrian air base. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned after the council vote on Thursday: "We will do it again if we must."

"The Assad regime should be on clear notice - the United States does not accept Syria's use of chemical weapons," she told the council, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the US draft resolution was not balanced.

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"We would like to remind our US colleagues and those who... supported their unrealistic draft, we would like to remind you that you bear the burden of responsibility if the mechanism cannot be salvaged," Nebenzia told the council.

"Russia is doing everything possible to prevent that from happening," he said.

RUSSIAN BID FAILS

Syrian ally Russia withdrew its own rival draft resolution to renew the inquiry, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), after unsuccessfully pushing for its proposal to be considered second and not first, as council rules required.

However, following the vote on the US draft, Bolivia then requested a vote on the Russian text. It failed, receiving only four votes in favor, seven against and four abstentions.

Ahead of the council votes, Trump on Thursday urged the Security Council to renew the inquiry, saying it was needed to prevent Assad from using chemical weapons.

While Russia agreed to the 2015 creation of the JIM, it has consistently questioned its findings, which also concluded that the Syrian government used chlorine as a weapon several times.

Russia has now vetoed 10 resolutions on Syria, including blocking an initial US bid on October 24 to renew the JIM, saying it wanted to wait for the release two days later of the inquiry's report that said the Syrian government used sarin.

"Russia has killed the Joint Investigative Mechanism ... Russia has undermined our ability to deter future attacks," Haley said. "In effect Russia accepts the use of chemical weapons in Syria. How then can we trust Russia's support for supposed peace in Syria?"

Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States.

"We condemn chemical weapons use," Nebenzia said.

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