Rus­sia ve­toes U.N. move on Syria chem­i­cal arms

Moscow, China veto res­o­lu­tion over use of chem­i­cal arms.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - So­mini Sen­gupta

Rus­sia and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion clashed in a vote at the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil for the first time Tues­day as the Krem­lin ve­toed a mea­sure backed by the Amer­i­cans to pun­ish Syria for us­ing chem- ical weapons.

While the Rus­sians had long sig­naled their in­tent to block the res­o­lu­tion, which was sup­ported by dozens of coun­tries, the clash of­fered in­sights into the big di­vi­sions that re­main be­tween the Krem­lin and Pres­i­dent Don- ald Trump, who has vowed to im­prove ties.

Rus­sia and China, two of the five per­ma­nent mem­bers of the coun­cil, blocked the mea­sure. It was the Krem- lin’s sev­enth Se­cu­rity Coun- cil veto in de­fense of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad over the war that has been con­vuls­ing his coun­try for nearly six years.

U.S. Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley, who has called chem- ical weapons at­tacks in Syria “bar­baric,” ac­cused Rus­sia and China of putting “their friends in the As­sad regime ahead of our global secu- rity” in her blunt re­buke of

the ve­toes. “It is a sad day on the Secu- rity Coun­cil,” Ha­ley said af­ter the vote. “When mem­bers start making ex­cuses for other mem­ber states kill- ing their own peo­ple, the world is def­i­nitely a more dan­ger­ous place.”

Di­plo­mats said Ha­ley had in­sisted on putting the mea­sure up for a vote this week, sig­nal­ing a de­sire to take a tough stand on Rus­sia.

In re­cent weeks, Ha­ley has con­demned what she called Rus­sia’s “ag­gres­sive ac­tions” in eastern Ukraine, vowed to main­tain sanc­tions over Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea and, in her Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, went as far as say­ing that Rus­sia was guilty of war crimes in Syria.

Her com­ments on Rus­sia have some­times con­tra­dicted the more con­cil­ia­tory lan­guage of Trump, who has made clear his de­sire to in­crease co­op­er­a­tion with Rus­sia.

The res­o­lu­tion, pro­posed by Bri­tain and France months ago and en­dorsed by the United States last week, would have im­posed sanc­tions on a hand­ful of Syr­ian mil­i­tary of­fi­cials and en­ti­ties for hav­ing dropped chlo­rine-filled bar­rel bombs on op­po­si­tion-held ar­eas on at least three oc­ca­sions in 2014 and 2015, ac­cord­ing to a U.N. panel.

Rus­sia’s en­voy, Vladimir Safronkov, de­fended the veto, call­ing the res­o­lu­tion “po­lit­i­cally bi­ased” and as­sert­ing that Rus­sia’s con­cerns about the draft lan g uage had not been ad­dressed.

China’s am­bas­sador, Liu Jieyi, re­call­ing the now-dis­cred­ited U.S. warn­ings of Iraq’s “so-called WMDs” in 2003, crit­i­cized the res­o­lu­tion as an ex­am­ple of “hypocrisy” by the West­ern pow­ers.

Chlo­rine is banned as a weapon un­der an in­ter­na­tional treaty that As­sad’s govern­ment signed in 2013.

The French am­bas­sador, Fran­cois De­lat­tre, said he wel­comed the sol­i­dar­ity from Ha­ley on the res­o­lu­tion.

“The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has a very clear po­si­tion that is also our French po­si­tion, the Bri­tish po­si­tion and the po­si­tion of the ma­jor­ity of mem­bers of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil,” De­lat­tre said.

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