United Nations Security Council members rejected a Russian proposal to condemn the American-led attack on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, voting down the resolution in an emergency meeting Saturday afternoon.
The proposal failed, following a debate that pit the lack of U.N. support for the airstrikes against Western assessments that Assad has been using chemical weapons “with impunity” in the eighth year of the Syrian civil war. Only three members of the council supported the Russian resolution, compared to eight votes against, with the remaining four nations represented on the council abstaining.
“The time for talk ended last night,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said during the meeting. “The Syrian regime has forced us to take action.”
Russia accused the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom of violating international law by attacking Assad absent approval from the United Nations. “This is hooliganism in international relations, and not minor hooliganism, given that we’re talking about major nuclear powers,” Vasily Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, said through a U.N. translator Saturday morning.
That complaint found some rhetorical support from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who reminded Western allies that “the U.N. charter is very clear” on the laws governing the use of force.
“It is my duty to remind member states that there is an obligation, particularly when dealing with matters of peace and security, to act consistently with the charter of the United Nations and international law in general,” he said.
Western diplomats countered that Russia is not an honest broker in the debate, by propping up Assad while vetoing U.N. Security Council resolutions that might lead to his regime being held accountable for chemical weapons attacks.
“Russia’s veto was the green light for the Assad regime to use these most barbaric weapons against the Syrian people in complete violation of international law,” Haley said before the vote. “The United States was not going to let that stand. Chemical weapons are a threat to us all. They are a unique threat — a type of weapon so evil that the international community agreed they must be banned.”