UN Security Council divided over U.S. attack on Syria base


UNITED NATIONS, April 7 (Xinhua) — A divided UN Security Council met on Friday in emergency session to debate the U.S. cruise missile attack on an airfield in Syria where Washington asserted aircraft were launched to drop chemical weapons on civilians Idlib Province earlier in the week, killing more than 70 people.

At least council members agreed the only solution to the Syrian war was a political one.

In addition to allegations that government forces carried out the attack there were also assertions it was carried out by terrorists or rebels or that a warehouse where the deadly gas was illegally stored had accidentally exploded.

The attack early Friday, Syrian time, came within an hour Thursday, New York time, of the council ending deadlocked, closed-door deliberations on a draft resolution calling for an investigation into the toxic gas attack.

“While we were striving to come up with alternatives and come up with consensus in the Security Council, the United States not only had unilaterally attacked but while we were sitting here and demanding the need for an independent investigation, a complete impartial investigation, the United States had become the investigator … prosecutor … the judge … the jury,” said Ambassador Sacha Llorentty Solíz of Bolivia, who requested the emergency council meeting along with Russia.

“This is an extremely, extremely serious violation of international law,” he said. “This is not the first time that this has happened.”

Llorentty then held up a 2003 photo of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, a retired army general, holding a vial containing what Powell had said was similar in appearance to a toxic substance to back up his claim of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and to buttress his plea to the Security Council to support a U.S.-led invasion.

No such weapons were found.

“It led to a series of atrocities in the (Middle East) region,” added the rather emotional representative of Bolivia. Llorentty at one point also waved a copy of the UN Charter to emphasize his point the U.S. attack was illegal under the Charter.

Ambassador Nikki Haley of the United States didn’t quite answer the question on the minds of many — whether this attack signals the beginning of President Donald Trump to order more military strikes.

“The United States took a very measured step last (Thursday) night,” she said, concluding her defense of the U.S. action. “We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary. It is time for all civilized nations to stop the horrors that are taking place in Syria and demand a political solution.”

“I deeply regret that the previous speaker showed more outrage against the United States than against the (Syrian President Bashar al) Asad regime that on Tuesday deliberately dropped chemical weapons,” said Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of Britain.

“The United Kingdom supports the U.S. air strike on the Al Shayrat airfield because war crimes have consequences,” the London envoy said. “And the greatest war criminal of all, Bashar al Assad, has now been put on notice.

“The U.S. strike was a proportionate response to unspeakable acts that gave rise to overwhelming humanitarian distress,” Rycroft said. “It was also a strong effort to save lives, by ensuring that such acts never happen again.

“The resolution that we adopted three and a half years ago provided a framework for the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria,” he said. “At the time Russian assured us that Asad would fully declare his chemical arsenal and would continue to cooperate with international inspectors. Perhaps that was the assurance that Russia received from Asad.”

“And perhaps Russia has now learned the hard lesson that backing a war criminal comes with its own consequence: humiliation.”

The representative of Russia, Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov, also sounded rather upset, especially with members of the council who voiced opposition to his alleged threat Thursday evening to veto a proposed resolution.

The five permanent members of the council Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, each have a veto.

He even asked for a second chance to complain of insults against Moscow.

Earlier, Safaronkov had described the U.S. attack as “a flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression. We strongly condemn the illegitimate actions by the U.S. The consequences of this to international and regional stability could be extremely serious.”

“It’s not difficult to imagine how much the sprits of these terrorists have been raised after this support from Washington,” he said, maintaining “The Syrian armed forces will continue to be the main military institute. Who will fight against terrorism? The illegal armed groups who have come to Syria in hundreds of thousands? You’ve destroyed Iraqi and Libyan bases and military institutions and see what happened.”

Liu Jieyi, the Chinese permanent representative to the United Nations, underscored the universal request for a political solution.

“China has always been consistently standing for dialogue and consultation to resolve the international conflict,” he said. “What is now urgently needed … is that all parties work together to prevent the situation in Syria from further deterioration. Political solution is the only way out for the Syrian issue. Military means will not work.”

“They will only worsen the suffering of the Syrian people so that the situation in Syria and the region will be more complicated and turbulent which is not at all in the common interest of Syria, regional countries and the international community,” Liu said. “China calls upon all relevant parties to persist firmly in diplomatic efforts and stick firmly for a political solution, stick to dialogue and consultation in a firm way and support the role of the United Nations as a main channel of mediation and good offices.”