Russia warns US against military action as response to chemical attack in Syria

Russia and the Western allies were unable to compromise during the UN security council on Tuesday evening, with each side voting against the other’s proposals to tackle last Saturday's gas attack in Syria

 Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, votes in favor of an investigation into the use of weapons in Syria. (Photo: The Guardian)
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, votes in favor of an investigation into the use of weapons in Syria. (Photo: The Guardian)

Russia has urged the US to avoid taking military action in response to the alleged chemical attack in Syria last Saturday.

Russia and the Western allies were unable to compromise during the UN security council on Tuesday evening, with each side voting against the other’s proposals for setting up a body dedicated to investigating repeated poison gas use in Syria.

The US delegation said it had done “everything possible” to accommodate Russian views and that the abortive council session marked a “decisive moment”. Russia said the issue was being used by the US and its allies as a “pretext” to attack Syria.

"I would once again beseech you to refrain from the plans that you're currently developing," Moscow's UN envoy Vasily Nebenzia said on Tuesday.

He warned Washington that it will "bear responsibility" for any "illegal military adventure" it carries out.

But Western leaders say they have agreed to work together to target those responsible for the attack in Douma.

The US, UK and France continued to make preparations for military action intended to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which they say is responsible for the latest chemical weapons attack, on the Damascus suburb of Douma on 7 April, killing more than 45 people.

French President Emmanuel Macron said any strikes would target Syrian government chemical facilities.

A team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is due to deploy to Syria "shortly" to determine whether banned weapons were used in Douma. The OPCW will not seek to establish who was responsible for the attack.

The UN session was the latest in a series of showdowns between Russia and the US and saw harsh words exchanged between the countries.

Nebenzia accused the US of "planting this resolution" as a "pretext" to justify military action.

"We could find ourselves on the threshold of some very sad and serious events," he said.

Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May held phone consultations on Tuesday. Macron told reporters in Paris later that a decision would be made in the coming days following “exchanges of technical and strategic information with our partners, in particular Britain and America”. He said that if airstrikes came, they would target Syrian government chemical facilities.

US President Donald Trump cancelled his first official trip to Latin America to focus on Syria. His Defence Secretary, James Mattis, has also cancelled travel plans.

In London, May convened a meeting of her national security council, where there is strong support from her most senior ministers for military action.

A Downing Street statement suggested some UK caution by continuing to state the chemical weapons attack had not yet been confirmed.

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