(GUA) France, UK and US wanted sanctions over chemical weapon use – but Vladimir Putin rejects ‘totally inappropriate’ proposal
Russia and China have vetoed a UN resolution to impose sanctions on Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons during the six-year war.
It is Russia’s seventh veto to protect the Syrian government from UN security council action. The vote was one of the first confrontations at the UN between Russia and the US since Donald Trump took control of the White House in January, pledging to build closer ties with Moscow.
Russia and China are both permanent members of the UN security council. France, the UK and the US complete the five-nation lineup. Another 10 nations are non-permanent members, elected for two-year terms by the 193 states that are members of the UN’s general assembly.
Russian president Vladimir Putin described the draft resolution on Tuesday as “totally inappropriate”.
Russia argued that the resolution – drafted by Britain, France and the US – would harm UN-led peace talks between the warring Syrian parties in Geneva, which began last week.
Nine UN council members voted in favour of the resolution and Bolivia voted against, along with China and Russia. Egypt, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan abstained.
A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by any of the five permanent members in order to be adopted. Nikki Haley, US ambassador to theUnited Nations, criticised Moscow following the vote.
“It is a sad day on the security council when members start making excuses for other member states killing their own people,” she said. “The world is definitely a more dangerous place.”
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, described the statements made against Moscow as “outrageous” and warned: “God will judge you.”
The vetoes received widespread condemnation by rights groups. Sherine Tadros, of Amnesty International, said: “By vetoing this resolution, Russia and China have displayed a callous disregard for the lives of millions of Syrians.”
French UN ambassador François Delattre said the failure by the council to act would “send a message of impunity”.
Physicians for Human Rights, an organisation that guides doctors in Syria on how to treat victims of chemical attacks, said the security council had “shown itself impotent to halt the terrible scourge of chemical weapons”.
Its statement added: “Shame on the Russian Federation, China and all those who enable the Syrian government’s attempts to escape accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Western powers put forward the resolution in response to the results of an investigation by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The international inquiry found Syrian government forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks and that Islamic State militants had used mustard gas.
British UN ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the council before the vote: “This is about taking a stand when children are poisoned, it’s that simple.”
Chlorine’s use as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013.
If inhaled, chlorine gas turns to hydrochloric acid in the lungs and can kill by burning lungs and drowning victims in body fluids.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s government has denied its forces have used chemical weapons. Russia has questioned the results of the UN/OPCW inquiry and has long said there was not enough proof for the security council to take any action.
The draft resolution would have banned the sale or supply of helicopters to the Syrian government because the UN/OPCW inquiry found Syrian government forces had used helicopters to drop barrel bombs containing chlorine gas.
It also proposed targeted sanctions – a travel ban and asset freeze – on 11 Syrian military commanders and officials, as well as on 10 government and related entities.