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The Security Council, voting today on three separate draft resolutions in response to recent allegations of a chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town of Douma, failed to rally the votes needed to launch an “independent mechanism of investigation” into the incident, as delegates voiced frustration over the continued paralysis and the expanding rifts between nations.
By the terms of a draft resolution submitted by the United States — which was not adopted, following a vote of 12 in favour to 2 against (Bolivia, Russian Federation) with 1 abstention (China), owing to a veto by the Russian Federation — the Council would have established the United Nations independent mechanism for an initial period of one year. It would have requested the Secretary-General to make recommendations about the mechanism including its terms of reference, based on the principles of impartiality, independence and professionalism, to identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Condemning the use of such weapons in the strongest terms, the Council would also have expressed full support for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding mission, which was already investigating the Douma incident. It would have called on all parties in Syria to fully cooperate with both investigations and allow them immediate, unfettered, safe and secure access to all relevant witnesses, evidence, reporting, materials and sites.
The representative of the United States, taking the floor following the text’s rejection, said her delegation had conducted transparent negotiations when drafting it and had gone “the extra mile” in incorporating the views of the Russian Federation. Providing for unhindered humanitarian access and establishing the independent mechanism of investigation was the “bare minimum” that the Council could do for the people of Syria, she stressed, declaring: “At a certain point, you’re either for an impartial, independent investigation, or you’re not.”
The representative of the Russian Federation, also speaking following its veto, said the United States was attempting to mislead the international community. The draft would have been an attempt to recreate the Joint Investigative Mechanism — whose mandate had not been renewed in late 2017 — which had become a puppet of anti-Damascus forces and shamed itself by rendering a guilty verdict against a sovereign State with no evidence. The new mechanism, as proposed by the United States, would carry out an investigation with no regard to the standards set out in the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction, known as the Chemical Weapons Convention, he said.
The Council then proceeded to vote on a competing draft submitted by the Russian Federation, also rejecting it, by a recorded vote of 6 in favour (Bolivia, China, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation) to 7 against (France, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States), with 2 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Kuwait).
By the terms of that text, the Council would have established a United Nations independent mechanism of investigation, also for an initial period of one year, and urged it to fully ensure a truly impartial, independent, professional and credible way to conduct its investigation. It would have further directed the mechanism to make full use of all credible, verified and corroborated evidence collected by the OPCW fact-finding mission, while also directing it to collect and examine additional information and sources not obtained or prepared by the mission, including all information provided by the Government of Syria and others on the activities of non-State actors.
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking after that vote, described the Russian Federation’s draft as a “distraction” and noted that its sponsor had sought no input from other delegations. It was inappropriate to set up any “quasi-judicial” investigation, she stressed, adding that the text also applied a selective approach to the OPCW parameters. Above all, the draft was unacceptable because it sought to assert that sovereign States were above international law. “This is breath-taking in its arrogance and its ignorance,” she emphasized.
Sweden’s representative expressed regret that the Council had failed to establish a mechanism to investigate — and ensure accountability for — alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Reiterating that “we will not give up” in that quest, he called on Council members to join together to condemn the use of any chemical weapons and fully back the OPCW fact-finding mission as a critical first step, to be followed by the attribution of guilt and prosecution of those responsible. “The credibility of this Council is at stake,” he stressed.
Following the failure of the Russian Federation’s text, that same delegation tabled a third draft resolution, which was shorter than the previous two. In contrast to those texts, the third contained no proposal to establish an independent mechanism of investigation. By its terms, the Council would reiterate its condemnation in the strongest terms of any use of any toxic chemical as a weapon in Syria, express its alarm at allegations of the use of such substances in Douma on 7 April, and express its full support to the OPCW fact-finding mission.
Following a suspension during which Council members held consultations on that draft, delegates ultimately failed to adopt it by a vote of 5 in favour (Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation) to 4 against (France, Poland, United Kingdom, United States), with 6 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden).
The representative of Equatorial Guinea, speaking following the vote, said his delegation had abstained because the draft had been unsatisfactory, while also having been submitted too late. Expressing frustration that, once again, nothing had been adopted, he hoped the Council would return on 11 April to reconsider the issue.
Syria’s representative, speaking at the close of the meeting, emphasized that his Government had officially invited OPCW to send its fact-finding mission to investigate. Syria would fully cooperate and provide access to a liberated Douma, he said. Criticizing the positions of the United States, United Kingdom and France, he said that some permanent Council members were attempting to cover up domestic crises and conflicts among their political elites. After seven years of “filthy terrorist war” in Syria, the choice was clear, he said. The Council should stand up to lies, conscious that international public opinion would be judging its ability to safeguard the world.
Also speaking today were the representatives of France, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Poland, Bolivia, Netherlands, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and Peru.
The meeting began at 3:18 p.m., was suspended at 4:40 p.m., resumed at 5:45 p.m. and ended at 6:34 p.m.
Action on Draft Resolutions
FRANCOIS DELATTRE (France), speaking prior to the Council’s action on draft resolution S/2018/321 submitted by the United States, recalled that Syria was required to give up all its chemical weapons in line with resolution 2118 (2013), for which the Russian Federation stood as a guarantor. Sadly, however, the issue of chemical weapons in Syria was still relevant, and the Council was meeting today following yet more reports of their use. “The use of chemical weapons is so abhorrent that is has been prohibited for almost a century now,” he said, underlining the importance of the regime painstakingly created by the international community to prohibit such weapons. Allegations of recent attacks in Douma by the Syrian regime could constitute war crimes, he said, stressing that, to allow such assaults would “let the genie of chemical weapons use out of the bottle” and pose an existential threat to all people.
The resolution submitted by the United States sought to create an independent mechanism of investigation based on a balanced approach, he said, adding that it would underpin the inquiry under way by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact finding mission. The draft would provide a mandate for that mechanism to assign responsibility for the Douma attacks, he said, stressing that only that combination of specific mandates would effectively act as a deterrent. France would not accept the establishment of any “smokescreen” or “window-dressing” mechanisms that lacked a strong mandate, he stressed, calling on all Council members to vote in favour of the United States text.
NIKKI R. HALEY (United States), speaking as the main sponsor of the draft resolution contained in document S/2018/321, said “we have reached a decisive moment as a Security Council”. On 9 April, all members had agreed that action must be taken to end chemical weapons attacks in Syria. In drafting the text before the Council, the United States had held open and transparent negotiations, “going the extra mile” for one member to include all possible elements proposed by the Russian Federation. Among other things, the draft called for unfettered humanitarian access and created the independent mechanism of investigation to determinate accountability. “This is the bare minimum” that the Council could do, she said. Turning to the competing text proposed by the Russian Federation, she said the key difference was that the one submitted by the United States ensured that any investigation would be independent. In contrast, the one submitted by the Russian Federation gave itself the chance to choose the investigators and help determine the outcome of the investigation. “At a certain point, you’re either for an impartial, independent investigation, or you’re not,” she said, urging all members to vote in favour of the United States draft and to vote against or abstain on the draft submitted by the Russian Federation.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the United States was attempting to mislead the international community, and taking one more step towards confrontation by requesting a vote a draft resolution that did not have unanimous support. The text was an attempt to recreate the Joint Investigative Mechanism, which had become a puppet of anti-Damascus forces and covered itself with shame by rendering a guilty verdict against a sovereign State with no evidence. The proposed new mechanism would carry out an investigation with no regard to the standards set out in the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction, known as the Chemical Weapons Convention. At all stages, the Russian Federation had insisted that the Secretary-General should select the staff for a new investigative mechanism on basis of broad geographical representation and approved by the Council. Visits to incident sites and protecting the chain of evidence must be mandatory working principles, while the Council would determine — on the basis of reliable evidence — who was responsible for using chemical weapons. Nothing along those lines was contained in the United States draft text, he said.
The authors of the United States draft knew that it would not be adopted, he said. The text had nothing to do with 7 April events in Douma, and if it was adopted, it would take several months to establish the mechanism and determine the guilty party. The authors were being driven by the hope that the text would not pass so as to justify the use of force against Syria. The United States had placed the international community in a state of tension, while on 9 April, the Special Envoy had expressed concern about escalation spilling beyond Syria. Propaganda would be aimed at the Russian Federation, he said, emphasizing that his country was in Syria at the at the invitation of its Government to combat international terrorism in line with the United Nations Charter, while the United States was covering up for terrorists. “I hope you would come to your senses,” he said, adding that the United States was planting the draft in the Council in order to find a pretext. His United States counterpart had said unequivocally that, in the absence of a Council decision, the United States would act on its own. The Russian Federation would not to support that country’s draft.
The Council then failed to adopt the draft resolution, by a recorded vote of 12 in favour to 2 against (Bolivia, Russian Federation) with 1 abstention (China), owing to a negative vote by one of its permanent members.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said today was a sad day for the Council, the cause of universal norms and standards, and the non-proliferation regime. Above all, it was a sad day for the people of Douma, who now had no protection from the international community. On 9 April, 14 Council members had called for an investigation, with several pressing permanent members to uphold the universal prohibition on weapons of mass destruction. With its veto, the Russian Federation had crossed a line and history was repeating itself a year after events in Khan Shaykhun. Last autumn, that country had vetoed a renewal of the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism on three occasions because it preferred to cross a line on weapons of mass destruction than risk the sanctioning of Syria.
The Russian Federation was not authorized by the Council to carry out an investigation in Syria, she emphasized. Recalling that Moscow had said there was no trace of a chemical attack in Douma, she wondered who had found no such traces. An independent investigative mechanism was needed, one that had the confidence of the Council, the United Nations membership and the people of Syria. With reports of chemical weapons attacks continuing since November, the Russian Federation would do what was necessary to protect Syria and shut down any further investigation and discussion of such crimes, despite its status as a permanent Council member, a State party to the Chemical Weapons Convention and a declared supporter of peace in Syria. The Russian Federation had abused its veto, she said, reiterating that claims of chemical weapons use in Douma were not fake and must be investigated by a proper mechanism. The Russian Federation’s credibility as a Council member was now in question. It was a matter of shame that it had blocked the Unites States’ draft, she said, quoting Vladimir Lenin as saying that “quantity had a quality all its own”.
WU HAITAO (China), expressing his country’s firm opposition to any chemical weapons use by anyone under any circumstances, underscored the need to carry out an impartial investigation “that can pass the litmus test of truth”, but stressed that there should be no prejudice to the outcome of such an inquiry. All Council members should remain united and insist that OPCW remain the main channel to address such issues. The draft just put to the vote contained elements of consensus; however, on a number of specific measures, it did not take into account major concerns of some States relating to the working methods of the proposed investigative mechanism. Given those concerns, China had abstained in the vote. He reiterated China’s commitment to supporting Syria’s people, stressing that it opposed the use or threat of use of force in international relations, and supported Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. All Council members should support a Syria-led and Syria-owned political solution to the conflict.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) said his delegation had voted in favour of the United States draft resolution because it clearly expressed the international community’s determination to see the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks found out and held accountable for their actions. It would have also ensured the credibility of the outcome of any investigation. By voting in favour, Côte d’Ivoire also sought to demonstrate its solidarity with the victims of the recent attacks in Syria. Unfortunately, the divisions among Council members were so deep that the draft had been unable to pass. He hoped its members would show more unity in the future.
PAWEL RADOMSKI (Poland) said accountability for war crimes, such as the use of chemical weapons, required under international law. The draft proposed by the United States drew on that requirement, creating a truly independent investigative mechanism to study claims of attacks in Douma. Expressing Poland’s full support for that text, he voiced regret that, due to the Russian Federation’s veto, the Council had once again failed to shoulder its main Charter responsibility. For some States, political alliances had proven more important than addressing the unacceptable loss of human life in Syria. Poland supported the independent investigative mechanism, the Partnership against Impunity and all other genuine efforts to hold perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks accountable.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), stressing that chemical weapons use constituted both a serious crime under international law and a threat to global peace and security, reiterated that the Council must maintain unity in order to hold accountable the perpetrators of such crimes. Bolivia supported the OPCW fact-finding mission and reiterated that the work of any newly created investigative body must be impartial, transparent and representative. States must avoid politicizing or exploiting such an instrument, he said, noting that he had voted against the United States draft because of threats by some nations of using force or taking other unilateral actions, all of which contravened the United Nations Charter and would undermine the sovereignty and integrity of Syria.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), noting that his delegation had supported the United States draft, expressed extreme disappointment that an attempt to set up an effective mechanism had failed again, marking the twelfth Russian veto concerning Syria and the sixth dealing with chemical weapons. If the Russian Federation thought alleged chemical weapons attacks were fabrications, then it should not have used its veto. The Netherlands would vote against the Russian draft, which fell short in every possible way. It seemed as if the Russian Federation was unable to support an independent and impartial mechanism, favouring instead one with terms of reference that would be subject to its veto. “Impunity must not prevail,” he said, emphasizing that work must continue — both inside and outside the Council — on an effective attribution mechanism.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), speaking before the vote on his delegation’s draft, said Lenin had also stated that “it’s better to have less than better”. Upon the end of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, his country had submitted on 23 January a draft for a new mechanism. However, the “Western camp” had voted against that text, which had dismantled loopholes that had allowed the Joint Investigative Mechanism to be manipulated. With today’s text, his delegation had brought the principles of a new mechanism into line with the standards of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Council now had an opportunity to create an independent body that would allow it to take appropriate decisions, he said, calling on Council members to support the draft.
The Council then failed to adopt the draft resolution submitted by the Russian Federation by a recorded vote of 6 in favour (Bolivia, China, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation) to 7 against (France, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States), with 2 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Kuwait).
Ms. PIERCE (United Kingdom), speaking after that vote, described the Russian Federation’s draft as a “distraction” and noted that its sponsor had sought no input from other delegations. It was inappropriate to set up any “quasi-judicial” investigation, she stressed, adding that the text also applied a selective approach to the OPCW parameters. Above all, the draft was unacceptable because it sought to assert that sovereign States were above international law. “This is breath-taking in its arrogance and its ignorance,” she concluded.
Ms. HALEY (United States) said history would record that some countries had decided to stand up for justice for the Syrian people, while others had not. Month after month, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad — with support from the Russian Federation and Iran — had ignored the Council’s calls for dialogue, for the delivery of aid and for an end to chemical weapons use. Last weekend, the regime had “forced a moment of reckoning on all of us”, she said adding: “The record will not be kind to one permanent member of this Council.” Indeed, the Russian Federation would stop at nothing to shield the Assad regime, and had trashed the Council’s credibility. Whenever any meaningful proposal was made relating to Syria, the Russian Federation vetoed it. It had cast six vetoes to protect that regime from accountability in cases of chemical weapons use. The United States had done everything to accommodate the Russian Federation’s views, but the latter had moved ahead with its own draft accommodating no one else’s position. Many of the two drafts’ elements were similar, creating an independent mechanism of investigation. However, the key differences spoke volumes. The Russian Federation sought to be the one to appoint the investigators and it wanted to review the outcome before any report was released. “Does any of that sound impartial?”, she asked. The Russian Federation had chosen “to protect a monster over the lives of the Syrian people”.
Mr. WU (China) said the Russian text contained several positive elements, including improved working methods and steps for carrying out a robust investigation and impartial evidence collection. As those elements were in line with China’s principle position, it had voted in favour of the text and regretted that it had not been adopted.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said it was frustrating that the Council had failed to adopt either draft resolution. His delegation had voted in favour of both, as it supported a new mechanism capable of shielding civilians from chemical weapons. Despite the negative outcome, he urged the Council to consider other texts that could enjoy consensus as soon as possible, in order to establish an investigative mechanism.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said it was regrettable that the Council could not adopt a resolution to set up a new mechanism. Such a tool would have sent a quick and unified message that it would not tolerate immunity. Ethiopia had voted for both draft resolutions in line with its principled position, he said, emphasizing that progress had been made in addressing differences and enhancing trust. “Frankly speaking, we don’t enjoy what we see,” he said, expressing deep disappointment over the situation within the Council. It was important to persevere with dialogue and support Council unity, without which it could not repair the damage done to the chemical weapons prohibition and non-proliferation regime. He looked forward to handling the issue of chemical weapons in Douma with a greater sense of responsibility. That was how it intended to look at the second Russian draft text, which was similar to the one circulated informally by Sweden on 9 April, whenever the Council was ready to take it up.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said today was a sad day for civilians throughout Syria, but particularly in Douma. “We ask for their forgiveness” for failing to end violations of international law and uphold Council resolutions banning the use of chemical weapons. He expressed apologies, as well, for the Council being unable to hold perpetrators to account, pressing the Council to achieve consensus. When it came to chemical weapons, impunity must end, which was why Kuwait had voted in favour of the United States draft that would have created an independent, neutral and professional mechanism, leaving the Council to determine whom should be subject to sanctions. Kuwait had abstained on the Russian draft text as it failed to meet all its conditions and deprived the new mechanism of the ability to determine responsibility for chemical weapons use. He went on to affirm support for a code of conduct whereby Council resolutions dealing with war crimes and crimes against humanity would not be subject to veto.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), also voicing regret that the Council had again failed to establish an investigative mechanism, reiterated that “we will not give up”. His country stood ready to support all efforts to ensure accountability for the use of chemical weapons and to bring justice for the Syrian people. “The credibility of this Council is at stake,” he said, calling on them to now join together to condemn the use of any chemical weapons and fully back the OPCW fact-finding mission as a critical first step, to be followed by the attribution of guilt and prosecution of those responsible. Yesterday, Sweden had first circulated a draft text seeking to find a common ground. “We must come back together again” following the failure the Council had just witnessed, he stressed.
KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan), condemning the use of chemical weapons as a heinous international crime, said impunity for their use was totally unacceptable. However, to punish those responsible, there must be an irrefutable way to prove the truth. The creation of a truly independent investigative tool was critical. To that end, Kazakhstan had worked with the United States and the Russian Federation delegations and had supported both proposed drafts.
Mr. LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) declared: “All empires have the illusion that they are morally superior to everyone else in the world”, and believed themselves to be exceptional and above the law. They did not seek to spread freedom or democracy, but only to expand their own dominion across the world. What had been witnessed today was a reflection of that reality, he said, echoing the delegate of Sweden’s pledge not to give up on efforts to seek a compromise and hold accountable the perpetrators of the recent chemical weapons attacks.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), voicing regret that the draft resolution proposed by his country had not passed, said his was not the only delegation to have cast a veto today. While the Council had on 9 April held an emotional discussion about the 7 April events in Douma, the fact of chemical weapons use had not yet been confirmed. During that debate, the Russian Federation had pledged to facilitate the work of the OPCW fact-finding mission. Its draft resolution aimed at establishing an additional investigative mechanism had been stamped out by the United States and its allies, who sought to shift the focus away from the need to identify those responsible for the attacks. The draft by his country had also reflected the Government of Syria’s invitation to the OPCW fact-finding mission in order to carry out is investigation in line with that organization’s standards. Describing that text as a “de-politicized initiative” that would have identified what had — and what had not — taken place in Douma, he voiced concern that now experts might be unable to reach Douma due to the potential aggressive military actions being threatened by some parties. Against that backdrop, he urged Council members to vote in favour of a second, shorter draft resolution, also submitted by his delegation, contained in document S/2018/322.
Mr. SKOOG (Sweden) said he was unsure if voting now on the new draft proposed by the Russian Federation would be productive. “We’re at a very fragile phase of Council deliberations”, and members must be careful not to push the matter deeper into paralysis. He, therefore, asked the President to immediately suspend the meeting to allow Council members to carefully and collectively reflect on the next step.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said he was puzzled by the request by Sweden, as the shorter draft had already been considered in consultations on 9 April. Out of respect, his delegation would support the request to pause the meeting, but he expected the text to be put to the vote immediately following consultations.
The Council then failed to adopt the second draft resolution submitted by the Russian Federation, contained in document S/2018/322, by a recorded vote of 5 in favour (Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation) to 4 against (France, Poland, United Kingdom, United States), with 6 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden).
Ms. PIERCE (United Kingdom) said that, during consultations, Peru and Sweden had made valiant attempts at a compromise. However, her delegation was unable to vote for the Russian Federation’s text because it failed to establish an investigation into who was responsible for what happened in Douma. That test only welcomed the fact-finding mission that was already on its way to determine whether chemical weapons had been used, and if so, which type. The fact-finding mission could not establish responsibility, thus starting the first step to attribution and responsibility. It would be like watching a fire but doing nothing to put it out. The Russian Federation had invited Council members to return to the issue of an investigative mechanism, but the answer to that was its veto of the Joint Investigative Mechanism on 17 November 2017.
Mr. WU (China) said OPCW had already asked its fact-finding mission to investigate reports of the use of chemical weapons in Douma. China supported that decision and called on all relevant parties to cooperate. He said the draft resolution put forward by the Russian Federation expressed deep concern over the use of chemical weapons in Douma, strongly condemned other chemical weapons attacks and welcomed the fact-finding mission to carry out on-site investigations, with guaranteed safe access. China had voted in favour of the Russian Federation’s text.
Mr. SKOOG (Sweden) said his delegation had abstained, as the text was not clear on the attribution and accountability track. Sweden had called for consultations as it saw an opportunity for the Council to come together and shoulder responsibility. Sweden had put forward a draft that it felt was credible and assertive in its support for the fact-finding mission while also making clear the determination to establish an impartial, independent and professional investigative mechanism, with the Secretary-General recommending to the Council within 10 days the best way forward. That would have been a better than where the Council now found itself, he said. Reiterating his disappointment, he said he hoped it would not consider that the end when it came to establishing the facts and true accountability, with no impunity for the use of chemical weapons in Syria or elsewhere.
Mr. NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), noting that his delegation had abstained in the vote because the draft had been unsatisfactory, as well as having been submitted late, voiced frustration that once again nothing had been adopted. He hoped the Council would adjourn for the night and return tomorrow to reconsider the issue.
Mr. RADOMSKI (Poland) said the original draft resolution, submitted by Sweden’s delegation, had been an honest attempt at a compromise. The version proposed by the Russian Federation, however, had dismissed the very important provision of establishing an independent investigative mechanism to examine the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma. His delegation had therefore voted against the text.
Ms. HALEY (United States) said the Russian Federation was both consistent in its actions and “very good at playing games”. Referring to the Joint Investigative Mechanism that had formerly been charged with investigating chemical weapons use in Syria, she said the Russian Federation had “loved it” until it found their ally guilty. That delegation had also liked the idea of a ceasefire until Assad had a problem with it. The Russian Federation would no doubt continue to be consistent, this time putting forward a surprise draft resolution with no negotiations and no input from any other countries. When Sweden had asked that the Council be allowed to discuss the text, the Russian Federation had obliged, but allowed for no changes to it. The draft only provided for an OPCW fact-finding mission, which was already in place, and it presented elements sought to compromise that investigation such as putting the Russian Federation and the Assad regime in the driver’s seat in making arrangements for the investigators. Asking how the same parties who claimed the Douma attack was fake were supposed to be trusted with its impartial investigation, she declared: “This Council, least of all [the Russian Federation], should not be calling the shots.”
Mr. ALEMU (Ethiopia), noting that his delegation had voted in favour of the “uncomplicated draft” submitted by the Russian Federation, said it could find no reason not to support it. Investigating the use of chemical weapons would have been a great achievement, he said, recalling that, until now, the Russian Federation’s position had been that no chemical weapons had been used in Douma. An investigation into those assertions, in and of themselves, would have been an achievement. Moreover, he said, the OPCW fact–finding mission needed the Council’s full support, but had not received it today.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the Council’s non-adoption of the second Russian text had been a litmus test that had given rise to serious concerns for his delegation. His country had proposed an innocuous resolution that practically repeated the draft proposed by Sweden on 9 April. It was difficult to understand which of its lines could be considered “scheming”, as the representative of the United States had claimed. The delegate of the United Kingdom had said it best: that the text could not be adopted because it was a Russian text. She had accused the Russian Federation of playing games, yet her own threats could lead the world to the threshold of sad and serious things. “I beseech you to refrain from the plans you are drawing up for Syria,” he said. While his delegation regretted that its draft had not been adopted, he expressed hope that the fact-finding mission would soon reach Syria and establish the facts of what had happened in Douma. The Russian military and the Syrian Government would provide security for the fact-finding mission and expected it to conduct its work as swiftly as possible.
Mr. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), thanking Sweden for its efforts, said the failure to reach consensus was frustrating. His delegation had abstained despite agreeing to the gist of the text calling for an investigation into what had happened in Douma. The fact-finding mission was going there in any case, and thus, there was no justification for the draft resolution. He supported the creation of an independent mechanism that would identify the party which had used chemical weapons, if the such use was confirmed, thus enabling the Council to hold the perpetrator accountable.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said his delegation had voted in favour, having asked in the Council a day earlier a simple question about what had taken place in Douma, given conflicting reports of events. The immediate question was not who did what, but about the incident itself, and in that regard, the fact-finding mission was important for understanding the objective reality. Just knowing what kind of substance had been used would help understand who the perpetrator was, or at least to establish that a chemical attack had occurred. Emphasizing that he was not taking sides, he stressed the need to obtain full, objective, transparent and unbiased information about the incident. Irrespective of the results in the Council today, he was pleased that OPCW was sending the fact-finding mission to Douma.
Mr. DELATTRE (France) said the aim of the text on which the Council had just voted was to create a smokescreen. That draft was not fit for the current circumstances, he stressed, adding that the Russian Federation continued to resist the establishment of a truly impartial and independent investigative tool, like the Joint Investigative Mechanism had been prior to its mandate being terminated.
Mr. VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said his delegation had abstained, as it had several serious reservations about the Russian draft. Those included the fact that the text had not made clear that an OPCW fact-finding mission already existed, and that States were already obliged to cooperate with it — they did not need a Council resolution to do so. In addition, the draft did not give the investigators enough independence. Those were issues that could have been resolved had the text been submitted to a proper consultation process, but, regrettably, it had only been circulated this morning. The “litmus test” of today’s meeting was the veto by one permanent Council member of efforts to establish an effective independent investigative mechanism, he said.
Mr. LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said his country had voted in favour of the draft resolution because it was critical to determine the facts surrounding the Douma events. All the current reports came from non-governmental organizations, he said, adding “we all know who funds them”. There were no honest grounds to oppose the Russian Federation’s text, he said, voicing concern over what was being planned by some parties “beyond this building”. Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt would turn over in their graves, as founding fathers of the United Nations, if any of the Organization’s members resorted to the use of unilateral force, he stressed.
Mr. MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), speaking again in his national capacity, said he had abstained in the vote. He expressed regret that today the Council had been unable to unify around its responsibility and alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said those representatives who were leaving the room as he took the floor did not want to hear opposing opinions. They had said that today was a sad day for the non-proliferation regime, but violating that regime was their countries’ speciality, with the United States using nuclear weapons in Japan, chemical and biological weapons in Viet Nam, and enriched uranium in Iraq. France and the United Kingdom had meanwhile tested nuclear weapons in their colonies. Quoting Shakespeare on the subject of lying, he said it was strange for the representative of the United Kingdom to say that the Russian Federation had no authority to go to Douma and establish whether chemical weapons had been used, when British intelligence had gone to Khan Shaykhun — with no coordination with the Joint Investigative Mechanism or the fact-finding mission — to take samples that then were sent to French and British laboratories. Noting that the United Kingdom had recently signed an agreement with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia for $100 billion of weapons to kill people in Yemen and to start new wars, he said Mahatma Ghandi — who knew the British well — was correct in saying that, if two fish were fighting in the ocean, the British would have started it.
Responding to the statement of the United States’ representative, he said the only monster confronting the world today was an American one that sent troops to destabilize countries and threaten international peace and stability. The same monster had refused to destroy its own chemical arsenal, yet lectured others. Turning to the “web of lies” cast by some Western countries regarding Douma, he said his country had officially invited OPCW to send its fact-finding mission to investigate alleged chemical weapons use. Syria welcomed that visit and stood ready to cooperate fully, and it looked forward to the fact-finding mission conducting its work with transparency and professionalism while relying on evidence. The fact-finding mission would get full access to a liberated Douma.
The co-sponsors of the United States draft did not seek the truth, he said, as that truth would condemn them and their terrorist proxies on the ground. Rather than wait for the fact-finding mission, they had tabled a draft resolution that lacked consensus and pre-empted outcomes in the service of their political agendas. The United States, United Kingdom and France had thwarted the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism by politicizing its work and bringing pressure to bear on its leadership. The scenario today resembled that of a year ago when the United States had launched a wonton aggression against a Syrian air base, and with its allies, prevented the Joint Investigative Mechanism from visiting Khan Shaykhun.
Affirming that his country had been subjected to lies for seven years, he said he was compelled to recall when the then-Secretary of State of the United States showed images from Iraq that were later determined to have been fabricated by the Central Intelligence Agency. Political immorality, meanwhile, had reached a new low when Libya was destroyed to cover up a case of bribery and corruption involving the leader of a permanent Council member. Today, some permanent Council members were attempting to cover up domestic crises and conflicts between their political elites. After seven years of “filthy terrorist war” in Syria, the choice was clear: the Council should stand up to lies, as public opinion would pass judgement on its ability to protect the world against terrorism.
Concluding, he reiterated Syria’s condemnation in the strongest terms of chemical weapons use by anyone anywhere. Stating that ships were in the eastern Mediterranean poised to begin aggression, he said that Western threats would never derail Syria from exercising its rights and protecting its sovereignty and territory.