Russia and U.S. Clash Over Syria in Security Council Vote
UNITED NATIONS — 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 chemical 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 Donald 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 Kremlin’s seventh Security Council veto in defense of President Bashar Assad of Syria over the war that has been convulsing his country for nearly six years.
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 language had not been addressed.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia reinforced his opposition before the vote Tuesday, adding that any Security Council penalties on the Syrian government would complicate diplomatic efforts aimed at halting the war.
“As for sanctions against the Syrian leadership, I think the move is totally inappropriate now,” he told a news conference while visiting Kyrgyzstan.
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. “It was forced through to a vote while council members still have differences,” he said. “This is in no way helpful to finding a solution.”
Chlorine is banned as a weapon under an international treaty that Assad’s government signed in 2013.