(From the United Nations website)
(Start: Partial unofficial summary of the meeting)
Members voiced frustration over the persistent deadlock in the Security Council, as they held an emergency meeting today following air strikes launched by the United States against a Syrian military base, with some delegates warning that the organ could lose its “remaining credibility” if unity remained out of reach.
While a number of delegates expressed support for the air strikes as a “proportionate” response to the Syrian Government’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians earlier this week, others condemned it as a unilateral act of aggression, underlining that the Council must authorize any such intervention.
At the outset, Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, recalled that on 4 April, alarming reports had emerged that an alleged chemical weapons attack had resulted in 86 deaths and more than 300 injuries. This morning, two United States naval vessels deployed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea had launched 59 cruise missiles targeting Syria’s Al-Shayrat military base, he said, adding that the United States had explained the strike as a response to the alleged chemical attack.
“It is important that this Council send a strong, collective message that any use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated and will have consequences,” the Under-Secretary-General emphasized that the international community must hold all perpetrators accountable. At the same time, he said, Secretary-General António Guterres remained mindful of the risk of escalation and had publicly appealed for restraint.
The representative of the United States emphasized that the Assad regime had murdered hundreds of thousands of people, broken international law and committed criminal acts that had shocked humanity’s conscience. The use of chemical weapons against civilians was one occasion when the United States would not stand by, she said, adding that the Russian Federation also bore responsibility, having made it known that it would use its veto to cover up for Assad. The world was waiting for the Russian Federation to reconsider its misplaced alliance with that regime, she said, stressing that it was time for all nations to stop the horrors taking place in Syria and demand a political solution.
Striking a similar tone, the United Kingdom’s representative declared: “Assad showed us, yet again, this time in Idlib, that he is capable of redefining horror.” Expressing support for the air strike, he emphasized that war crimes had consequences, describing the attack as a strong effort to save lives by ensuring that such actions would never recur.
Syria’s representative, however, denounced the air strike as a “barbaric, flagrant act of aggression” representing a violation of both the United Nations Charter and international law. The Government of Syria did not possess chemical weapons and would never use them under any conditions, he emphasized, warning: “This aggression will surely send an erroneous message to the terrorist groups, emboldening them to use more chemical weapons in the future.” He expressed regret that history had come “full circle”, with the United States once again using fabricated evidence to justify its actions and to spread hegemony around the world.
The Russian Federation’s representative said the United States often cited the need to combat terrorism as justification for its presence on Syrian territory, despite the presence of its troops without invitation from Syria or Council approval, he said, adding that United States aggression had only strengthened terrorism by its attack on the Syrian air force, which had combated terrorism for years. Following the air strike, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Nusrah had carried out attacks against Syrian military sites, he said. The draft resolution recently tabled by the United States, United Kingdom and France was “erroneous” in its determination that Damascus was guilty, he said, asking why they had not presumed its innocence instead. Describing the air strike as an attempt to distract from tragedies in Mosul and elsewhere, he said that his delegation did not need to engage in a cynical show of photographs to recall those events.
Terrorism must be fought according to standards, he emphasized, adding: “Look at what you are doing in Iraq.” Noting that the Council’s 10 non-permanent members had worked for compromise on 6 April, he also pointed out that they had thanked the United States for having postponed a vote. However, there had been no need for gratitude because that delegation had already decided to take military action.
Egypt’s representative cited this week’s events as “living proof” that the Syrian people were the victims of a proxy war that had paralyzed the region. “We are fed up with the statements of regret and condemnation,” he said of the condemnations that the Council issued after every tragedy in Syria. The time had come for “frank talk”, he said, calling directly upon the United States and the Russian Federation to seek a middle ground and a political settlement of the conflict in Syria.
(End: Partial United Nations meeting summary)
Syria’s United Nations representative Mounzer Mounzer was the final official to address the Security Council 7919th meeting.
(Thank you to Secundus Silent at YouTube)