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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 paralysed 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.
Speakers also conveyed their condolences to the Permanent Mission of Sweden for today’s terrorist attack in Stockholm.
Also speaking were representatives of Bolivia, Uruguay, Italy, France, China, Japan, Senegal, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Ethiopia and Ukraine.
Taking the floor a second time was the representative of the Russian Federation.
The meeting began at 11:34 a.m. and ended at 1:32 p.m.
JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the last two months had seen the 30 December 2016 ceasefire in Syria falter amid a steady escalation of military activity. In February, Government forces had escalated military operations in several areas of Damascus and Homs, recapturing Wadi Barada and al-Waar in the latter city, he said, adding that those operations had been accompanied by the evacuation of fighters and their families. On 4 April, with Government forces fighting to regain territory recently lost to the opposition in northern Hama, alarming reports of an alleged chemical attack in nearby Khan Shaykhun had emerged, and sources on the ground had reported air strikes, he said, noting that 86 deaths and more than 300 injuries had also been reported.
This morning, he continued, two United States naval vessels deployed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea had launched a total of 59 cruise missiles targeting the Al-Shayrat military base in Homs Governorate, with the United States stating that the move was in response to the alleged chemical attack from that base. The United States had also stated that it had informed the Russian Federation of the strike in advance, in order to minimize the risks to Russian and Syrian forces.
He went on to say that a subsequent statement from the Syrian General Command of the Army and Armed Forces had described today’s air strike as a “blatant act of aggression”, noting that it had reportedly caused six deaths and “huge material damage”. Iran and the Russian Federation had condemned the attack, while the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Japan, Netherlands and New Zealand had expressed some support for it. “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,” and that the international community would hold all perpetrators accountable.
Emphasizing that accountability and the protection of civilians should be at the top of the peace and security agenda, he said that in Syria’s case, there could be no genuine protection if the parties in conflict were permitted to act with impunity and if the Government continued to commit human rights violations against its own citizens. Protecting Syrian civilians required immediate action rooted in the principles of the United Nations, he stressed, pointing out that the Secretary-General was mindful of the risk of escalation and had publicly appealed for restraint so as to avoid any acts that could deepen the Syrian people’s suffering.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY (Bolivia), noting that his country had called for today’s meeting, expressed concern that while the Council had been debating proposals for the investigation of chemical attacks in Syria, the United States had carried out a unilateral attack, threatening peace and security. “We are here to defend multilateralism,” he said, urging respect for the United Nations Charter provisions prohibiting unilateral actions. Emphasizing that any such action must be authorized by the Council, he declared: “We represent the 193 Member States of this Organization, and through them, the peoples of the world.” Yet, the United States had made itself the investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury, he said, asking which investigation would establish responsibility for the attacks, which represented a threat to international peace and security, notably the ongoing political processes in Geneva and Astana.
In 2003, he recalled, the Council had heard about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, after which the United States had invaded that country, causing 1 million deaths and a series of atrocities. “Could we talk about ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da’esh] if that invasion had not taken place?” he asked, taking issue with double standards. He went on to cite several events that he said had been financed by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States, noting also that the Council had “first-class and second-class” members — those who controlled the veto and the rest who underwrote their positions. “This is not multilateralism,” he emphasized. Condemning the use of chemical weapons, he demanded an impartial investigation resulting in the prosecution of the perpetrators under international law.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) expressed regret that his counterpart from Bolivia had demonstrated greater outrage against the United States than against the Assad regime, which had used chemical weapons that had killed more than 100 people. Three-and-a-half years ago, the same regime had pledged to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, disclose its arsenal and proceed to destroy it. Today, after those stockpiles should have been destroyed, “Assad showed us, yet again, this time in Idlib, that he is capable of redefining horror”, he said, emphasizing that impunity could not be the norm.
Expressing support for the United States air strike, he stressed that war crimes had consequences, describing the attack as a proportionate response to unspeakable acts, and a strong effort to save lives by ensuring that such acts never recurred. The resolution adopted three years ago provided a framework for destroying chemical weapons, he said, recalling that the Russian Federation had assured the world at the time that Assad would fully declare his arsenal. While Assad thumbed his nose at Moscow’s calls to join the peace process, the Russian Federation “sits here today humiliated by its failure” to control a puppet dictator supported by Hizbullah, he said, asking why that country protected a dictator who was in violation of international law. He appealed to the Russian Federation to abandon its failed strategy and join the Council in calling for justice and accountability, and in supporting a political process leading the transition to a more legitimate and representative government in Syria.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said this week’s events were “living proof” that the Syrian people were the victims of a proxy war that had paralysed the region. Urging Council members to abandon all disagreements and competition, he declared: “We are fed up with the statements of regret and condemnation” that followed every Syrian tragedy. They had become mere slogans and were never accompanied by action, he noted. Urging an immediate ceasefire and a push forward on the Geneva peace talks, he emphasized that the Syrian people were capable of determining their own future, but only with the support and action of the international community. The time had come for “frank talk”, he said, calling directly upon the United States and the Russian Federation — given their standing as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group and their respective influence on the parties — to move actively in the direction of a middle ground and a political settlement of the conflict in Syria.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said his country was a small one without an army that threatened others, and viewed non-use of force as a core principle of international relations. Uruguay had always rejected unilateral use of force, he said, expressing hope that this week’s events would not escalate into further attacks, leading to an endless spiral of violence. The atrocious crimes committed in Syria, including the use of chemical weapons by both the Government and ISIL/Da’esh, underscored the Council’s responsibility to identify those responsible, he said. Furthermore, it should reflect on the situation in which it now found itself — a direct result of the veto privilege — and all members should make a commitment not to use the veto in cases of crimes against humanity, he said.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) recalled that his delegation and that of the European Union had firmly condemned the ruthless, cruel and vile chemical attack of 4 April, and he understood the reasons behind the air strike by the United States. Describing that attack as proportionate in both time and manner, he said the air strike was a sign of deterrence against further use of chemical weapons in Syria, to which there should already have been a prompt and strong Council response. Calling urgently upon the parties to reunite in negotiations, he underlined that only a United Nations-led political transition in accordance with Council resolution 2254 (2015) could lead the way out of the Syria conflict, which in turn could only advance if the Council was united.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said his statement today was an extension of a joint communiqué published by the President of France and the Chancellor of Germany. Bashar al-Assad had never renounced the use of chemical weapons nor deviated from his goal to annihilate those who resisted him, he said, adding that his country had called for strong international action in the face of that regime’s repeated violations of international humanitarian law, which constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity. France had worked to ensure that those crimes had not gone unpunished, including by proposing the United Nations go the International Criminal Court, efforts that the Russian Federation had vetoed. Noting that Syria had violated its commitment to the agreement on the use and storage of chemical weapons, he said such actions were a clear violation of the Council’s decisions. Calling strikes by the United States a legitimate response to the chemical attack and an important signal that such use would not be tolerated, he blamed Bashar al-Assad for what had happened, by flouting collective security principles, violating his international humanitarian law obligations, the legal prohibition for recourse to chemical weapons and Council resolutions. It had been essential to deter him.
Recourse by anyone to chemical weapons constituted a war crime that could not go unpunished, he said, stressing that the world could no longer be fooled by Mr. Assad’s delaying tactics. Through resolution 2118 (2013), the Council had committed itself to sanction any such actions. Mr. Assad’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction had been documented by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism. On 28 February, the Council had been prevented by the Russian Federation’s unjustified veto use, which had been seen by Mr. Assad as a sign of impunity. As the Russian Federation had not exercised the necessary pressure on that regime, the Council was responsible to ensure that all possible light be shed on the attack carried out by the regime in Khan Shaykhun and that the perpetrators were brought to justice. That 4 April attack underscored the need for a permanent solution to the situation in Syria, which would not be solved through military means alone. Emphasizing the moral and political responsibility to give dynamism to the Geneva talks, he urged the international community to coalesce around a political solution, in line with Council resolution 2254 (2015), stressing that France would make proposals in that regard. Mr. Assad’s Syria was the strongest generator of terrorism.
LIU JIEYI (China) said fast action must be taken to advance dialogue in order to help Syrians lift themselves out of suffering and lead a peaceful life. Noting that China had always stood for dialogue in resolving international conflicts, he said all parties must ensure that the situation did not further deteriorate. “Military means will not work,” he said, noting that only a political solution would succeed. He called on all relevant parties to persist in diplomatic efforts, seek political solutions, stick to dialogue and support the United Nations as the main mediation channel. He urged all efforts to maintain the hard-won momentum, noting that recent events had complicated the situation in Syria. “We have to stick to uniform criteria” in fighting terrorist organizations listed by the Security Council, he asserted.
KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that the recent use of chemical weapons was extremely inhumane and violated relevant Security Council resolutions. Expressing support for the “determination of the United States to never allow the spread and use of chemical weapons”, he said: “We understand that the United States took the action last night in order to prevent further aggravation of the situation”. He reaffirmed Japan’s determination to address the reported use of chemical weapons in Idlib. Japan urged a speedy investigation in order to identify those responsible for the chemical weapons attack.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) strongly condemned the attack by the United States on the sovereign territory of Syria, warning that the consequences could be extremely serious. The air strike violated the 2015 memorandum ensuring security during air operations in Syria, he said, noting that his country had stopped its cooperation with the United States under that accord. That country 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.
He went on to state that following the air strike, ISIL/Da’esh and Al-Nusrah had carried out attacks against Syrian military sites. However, the Syrian armed forces remain Syria’s main anti-terrorism institution, said, asking who the Council could propose as an alternative in fighting terrorism. “The illegal armed groups?” The United States had destroyed military bases in Iraq and Libya, in contradiction of the Geneva communiqué, “which we designed together with you”, he pointed out. The Russian Federation had stated the need to establish an international coalition to fight terrorism, on the basis of international law, and had sent signals to the United States seeking cooperation, yet that country had chosen a different path, which had led to horrible tragedies. “Remember what you have produced in the Middle East,” he urged the United States, adding that it must consider how it had just impacted the political settlement process in Syria.
Describing today’s appeals to advance that process as “hypocritical”, with the progress made on the Astana and Geneva tracks having been undermined, he said the draft resolution recently tabled by the United States, United Kingdom and France was “erroneous” in its determination that Damascus was guilty, asking why they had not presumed its innocence instead. Those countries had a “paranoid idea” to overthrow a legitimate Government in Syria, as seen in the statement by the United Kingdom’s representative. He urged that country to stop submitting unprofessional arguments and statements against his country. “They are lies,” he emphasized, while cautioning: “Don’t even try to get into fights in the Arab world.” “Nothing will work; all Arab countries recall your colonial hypocrisy.”
He went on to state that those who had carried out the air strike were not interested in an impartial investigation into Khan Shaykhun. Rather, they were afraid of what would happen if the probe contradicted the anti-Government paradigm. The United States had cited information from its intelligence services to the effect that the Syrian Government had used chemical weapons, he noted, asking to see that information while underlining that specialists would determine whether that had been the case. Rather than deal in a complex, multipolar world of ultimatums, the Russian Federation had proposed a constructive alternative, but no good arguments had been put forward, he recalled. Moscow’s initiative had appealed for specialists — to be chosen on a geographical basis — to visit Khan Shaykhun with the OPCW-United Nations group and conduct a professional investigation.
All Syrian parties had been asked to provide immediate access since outside groups associated with Al-Nusrah controlled that area of Idlib Governorate, but they had “some things to hide in terms of the chemical dossier”, he said, emphasizing that it was no coincidence that complaints that extremists were storing and had used chemical weapons had been ignored. The fact-finding mission did not work in a conscientious manner, preferring to “come up with statements” propagated on social media by non-governmental organizations of doubtful reputation, he stated, adding: “It’s not even worth looking at.” The Russian Federation’s draft resolution mentioned the need for geographical balance in the investigation team’s composition so as to address issues of impartiality since the fact-finding mission was thus far composed of people from a country at the forefront of the anti-Damascus parties. 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 to find a 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 to thank that delegation because it had already decided to take military action. He concluded by calling upon the United States to cease its aggression and join those seeking a political solution for Syria in working together to combat the terrorist threat. Under those conditions, the Russian Federation would be ready to engage in cooperation. The Russian Federation wielded its veto in a responsible manner, and only when “you try in the Council to impose your irresponsible geopolitical projects” he said. “These geographical adventures will never be supported.”
FODÉ SECK (Senegal), pointing to the Council’s current deep divisions over the Syrian crisis, demanded: “What image are we sending to the international community, and above all, what message are we sending to the Syrian people?” Nothing, even a conflict, could justify such an atrocity as the use of chemical weapons against civilians, he said, urging the OPCW to quickly investigate that allegation. Reiterating his country’s position that there could be no military solution to the conflict, he said only a negotiated political solution based on the Geneva communiqué and Council resolution 2254 (2015) could bring about a peaceful end to the conflict, and expressed hope that the next round of Geneva talks would move that process forward.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), expressing concern over recent events and the subsequent absence of unity on the Council, called on all parties concerned to refrain from actions that could further escalate the situation. “We simply cannot allow the ceasefire to dissolve,” he said, stressing that the use of chemical weapons represented a crime against humanity. A thorough, objective and impartial investigation into the alleged attack on Khan Shaykhun would allow the international community to reach a fair verdict on that incident, he said, calling for full respect for the sovereignty of States. Only a diplomatic political solution could bring peace to Syria, he stressed, urging the international community to overcome its differences to that end.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said if the alleged use of chemical weapons in the attack in Khan Shaykoun was proven correct, it would be no surprise. The Joint Investigative Mechanism had previously concluded that chemical weapons had been used by the Syrian regime on at least three occasions. Chemical weapons use was illegal and there must be no impunity for such atrocities. Sweden had been extremely clear that the Khan Shaykhun attack must be condemned in the strongest terms; that there must be a rapid, fully impartial investigation to confirm chemical weapons use; and that those responsible must be held accountable. Sweden had worked over the last two days to ensure the Council’s urgent adoption of a strong resolution on a robust investigation. While those efforts had not borne fruit on 6 April, he believed there was enough common ground to move forward on a strong text. Noting that Sweden had championed accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, he urged unity in backing the United Nations political process.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), warning that “the terrorists will win” if the Syrian State collapsed, said there could be no justification for the alleged use of chemical weapons on 4 April. There remained too many States and non-State actors in Syria while the situation continued to worsen. “This is the time for wisdom to prevail” and for statesmanship to take the upper hand, he stressed, urging the Council to unite and shoulder its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Cautioning that the Council risked losing any remaining credibility if it did not act, he expressed support for the draft resolution put forward by the 10 non-permanent members of the Council and urged its adoption. Calling for calm and restraint in order to de-escalate the situation, he expressed hope that the air strike on 6 April by the United States would not dampen the prospects for a political solution.
VOLODYMYR VELCHENKO (Ukraine) described the missile strike as an adequate, proportionate response and a sign that the use of weapons of mass destruction would no longer be tolerated. The events of 6 April had been long in coming, he said, recalling that the Council had been paralysed for years, practically held hostage by a delegation that abused its permanent status and took an approach of “my way or no way”. Everything had been done to obstruct meaningful action, he said, urging the Russian Federation to stop its mockery of the Council and its references to others as paranoid. “Look at yourself,” he said, emphasizing that a political solution would only be reached through commitment to a political transition. He rejected the Russian Federation’s accusation that the air strike was an act of aggression, saying the Russian Federation had lost all moral ground after its annexation of Crimea. Failure by the Council to discharge its duties objectively and “stand up for what is right” would undermine its moral standing, he emphasized. If inaction persisted, the response would come from outside the system, and well-known obstructionists would have only themselves to blame for events not playing out according to their favoured scenarios.
NIKKI HALEY (United States) said the Assad regime had murdered hundreds of thousands of people, broken international law and committed criminal acts that shocked humanity’s conscience. The Joint Investigative Mechanism had found “beyond any doubt” that the regime had used chemical weapons multiple times against its own people, she said, recalling that on 4 April, Bashar al-Assad had launched a chemical attack against civilians “because he thought he could get away with it”; because he knew “Russia would have his back”. That had changed on 6 April, she said, noting that, as she had warned, when the international community failed in its duty to act collectively, there were times when States were compelled to take their own action. The use of chemical weapons against civilians was one such occasion and the United States would not stand by, she stressed, adding that it was in her country’s national security interest to prevent the spread and use of such arms. On 6 April, the United States had destroyed a Syrian air base, she said, emphasizing: “We were fully justified in doing so.” The Assad regime’s crimes against humanity could no longer be met by empty words, and the Assad regime must never use chemical weapons again.
However, the Assad regime was not the only guilty party, she continued. Iran also bore a heavy responsibility, having propped up a brutal dictator for years and having played a role in the bloodshed. The Russian Federation also bore responsibility and had made it known that it would use its veto to cover up for Assad, as it had previously done seven times. The “watered down” Russian draft would have only strengthened the regime, she said. “We were not going to allow that.” The Russian Federation was supposed to guarantee the removal of chemical weapons from Syria, which clearly had not happened because civilians continued to die in chemical attacks. Was that because the Russian Federation was knowingly allowing such weapons in Syria, had it been incompetent in its efforts, or was Bashar al-Assad “playing the Russians for fools”? she asked. The world was waiting for the Russian Federation to reconsider its misplaced alliance with Assad. Calling for a new phase that would begin with a drive for a political solution to the conflict, she said the United States expected Syria to take the United Nations process seriously, and the Russian Federation and Iran to hold their ally accountable and abide by the ceasefire. The Council must speak loudly when the regime undermined the process, she added, insisting that the United States had taken a measured step and was prepared “to do more”. Hopefully, that would not be necessary, she said. It was time for all nations to stop the horrors taking place in Syria and demand a political solution.
MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria) said the air strike by the United States against his country today had been a “barbaric, flagrant act of aggression”. It had led to deaths, injuries and widespread material damage, and represented a violation of both the United Nations Charter and international law. The United States had tried to justify its aggression with fabricated arguments that Syria had used chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun — the same justification advanced by terrorist groups and the countries supporting them. However, the Syrian Government did not possess such weapons and would never use them under any conditions, he emphasized. However, it was well known that terrorists had stockpiled chemical agents in Syria, in cooperation with Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other States outside the region. “This aggression will surely send an erroneous message to the terrorist groups, emboldening them to use more chemical weapons in the future,” he warned.
The air strike was a grave extrapolation of the United States strategy to support so-called moderate opposition groups, he said. That country led a purported alliance against ISIL/Da’esh, while its real objective was to weaken Syria and its allies. “These colonialist permanent member States have an appetite to renew their lies”, which had been seen 14 years ago in Iraq, he said. Indeed, history had regrettably come full circle, with the United States once again using fabricated evidence to justify its actions and spread hegemony around the world. Despite their claims, however, the United States, France and the United Kingdom cared nothing for freedom, democracy and human rights, he said, adding that they used those principles as a mere pretext to wage war, control other nations and protect their wealth and energy resources. Warning that attacks like the one perpetrated today would bring back the law of the jungle, he pointed out that the United States had killed millions of innocent people over the course of its history, in South-East Asia, Latin America and many other parts of the world.
The representative of the Russian Federation took the floor a second time, asking delegates from the United States and other countries to refrain from insulting his country since he had not insulted theirs. The new Permanent Representative of the United States had a genuine opportunity to establish a healthy, collective work environment in the Council, but that could not happen when her delegation continued to speak about her national position as “absolute truth”.