Russia demands UN Security Council condemn Syria missile attack

Russia has called an emergency Security Council meeting to file a motion condemning the missile attack on Syria. Only two other countries backed its efforts though.

hoto taken on April 14, 2018 shows an emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss the situation after airstrikes in Syria by the United States, France and Britain, at the UN headquarters in New York.

The United Nations Security Council on Saturday rejected a Russian resolution to condemn Western strikes on Syria.

Moscow called the emergency Council meeting after the US, France and the UK fired scores of cruise missiles at what they said were chemical weapons facilities in Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Damascus last week.

Read more: Airstrikes in Syria: What you need to know

Watch video02:01

Syria: US-led airstrikes on chemical weapons facilities

How the meeting went

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged restraint and to avoid any escalation.
  • Guterres renewed his call for an investigation to identify the perpetrators of the chemical attack.
  • Russia filed a draft resolution condemning the missile attack as a violation of international law and the UN Charter, and demanding the US and its allies cease aggression against Syria.
  • Only Russia, China and Bolivia voted in favor. Eight countries voted against the draft. Four abstained.

Read more: Russia condemns US airstrikes on Syria as world reacts

Watch video01:38

Russia accuses Britain of staging gas attack in Syria

Britain defends strikes

British ambassador to the UN Karen Pierce said “it was both right and legal to take military action together with our closest allies to alleviate further humanitarian suffering.”

US ambassador Nikki Haley said: “If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded.”

Read more: Why Syria is not the Cuban missile crisis of 2018

World closes ranks: Russia and Syria have found little support for their position, with the 29 NATO states unanimous in their approval of the strikes given Russia’s blocking of investigative efforts.

The chemical attack: Dozens of people were reportedly killed and many more injured in a suspected chemical weapons attack in the city of Dhouma last week. Various groups alleged that either chlorine, a nerve agent, or both were used in the attack.

Allegations of blame: Western allies accused the Russian-backed Syrian regime of being behind the attack. Russia and Syria deny this, saying the incident was either fabricated or was a false-flag attack.

Retaliatory attacks: In response, the US, France and the UK launched attacks early Saturday morning against three sites near Damascus and Homs that were allegedly used for the research, development production, testing and storage of chemical weapons.

aw/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP)

DW RECOMMENDS

Russia accuses UK and allies of concocting the attack on Skripal at UN Security Council

Russia has told the United Nations Security Council that British intelligence services probably poisoned Sergei Skripal. The US accused Russia of peddling conspiracy theories and said it stood behind the UK.

Watch video05:07

Diplomatic Baggage

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, accused the UK of being responsible for the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in a blistering address to the UN Security Council on Thursday.

His speech covered a series of discrepancies he saw in the British response to the Salisbury attack.

Read more: Skripal poisoning: Russian ambassador demands transparency in OPCW probe

Watch video00:35

‘Yakovenko: ’15 countries voted against transparency’

Coordinated plot

“Since the British authorities dare to state with a ‘high degree of probability’ that Russia is behind the Salisbury incident, we also, with a ‘high degree of probability’ assume that the intelligence agencies of certain countries are behind this mega provocation,” Nebenzya said.

“It is more than likely that this very questionable case is a fabrication.”

“It’s some sort of theater of the absurd. Couldn’t you come up with a better fake story?” Nebenzya added.

Read more: What does the chemical weapons watchdog OPCW do?

Britain possesses Novichok

Nebenzya said the UK had admitted it was in possession of the nerve agent.

“Novichok is not copyrighted by Russia in spite of the obviously Russian name. It was a name that was invented in the west for a line of toxic substances, which is nothing new for experts and scientists. They were developed in many countries including in the US and in Great Britain.”

“Boris Johnson confirmed to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that they have this substance in their hands.”

He said Porton Down scientist Gary Aitkenhead had revealed that his lab had samples of Novichok when he told Sky News that the substance could not “leave the four walls of our facilities.”

“What was this that couldn’t leave the laboratory? And does the OPCW know about his substance,” he asked.

Read more: Boris Johnson accused of making misleading Russia Novichok claim in DW interview

Watch video01:30

Diplomats leave Moscow embassy

Unanswered questions

He said the British investigation had leapt to conclusions and left many questions unanswered.

“I don’t think that the British investigative bodies are grateful to the British government for their hasty and unequivocal conclusions. Your politicians never thought about this, they had no idea that their hyped up statements might boomerang and hit them.”

He listed a series of unanswered questions that he said cast doubt on the British conclusions, including: “Where were the Skripals for four hours with their phones switched off? How were the samples taken and who can confirm their reliability? Why weren’t relatives asked for their approval to take blood samples? How did the antidote against an unknown chemical substance appear so quickly and was it injected?”

“We all know what the worth of British intelligence is based on the experience of Tony Blair.”

Read more: EU stands behind Russian culpability in Skripal poisoning

Playing with fire

He warned Britain that it had poisoned Russia’s international relations without proper evidence.

“We have told our British colleagues that you are playing with fire and you’ll be sorry.”

UK, US respond

British Ambassador Karen Pierce said London would not “take any lectures on morality or on our responsibilities from a country that, as this council debated yesterday, has done so much to block the proper investigation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.”

Britain’s actions “stand up to any scrutiny” and pledged to keep the 15-member body updated on the inquiry.

“We have nothing to hide … but I do fear that Russia might have something to fear,” Pierce said.

Meanwhile, the US accused Russia of peddling conspiracy theories and reaffirmed its support for Britain.

“The fact that a permanent member of this council was behind an incident like this is appalling,” said deputy US ambassador to the UN Kelley Currie.

She said the US stood beside the UK over the matter.

aw/bw

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

DW RECOMMENDS

Yemen facing ‘largest famine in decades’ if blockade isn’t lifted, UN aid chief says

Mass famine in Yemen would affect millions of lives unless the Saudi-led coalition lifts its blockade of the country, the UN’s aid chief has warned. The Security Council has demanded aid be allowed to enter Yemen.

Watch video01:18

United Nations warns of catastrophic famine in Yemen

The Saudi-led military coalition’s blockade of Yemen could lead to “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims,” Mark Lowcock, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, warned on Wednesday.

Lowcock’s warning came as the UN Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss the most recent escalation in the Yemen conflict after Saudi Arabia closed off all land, sea and air borders to the Arabian Peninsula country.

The blockade has also grounded all UN humanitarian flights into Yemen and prevented ships carrying urgent supplies, such as medicine and food, from docking.

Watch video00:26

UN humanitarian chief reports Yemen spiraling towards collapse

The Saudi-led coalition has claimed that the blockade’s intention was to stop the flow of arms from Iran going to the Yemeni Houthi rebels the Saudis have been fighting since 2015. The decision to block off Yemen’s borders followed the interception of a missile, allegedly fired by Houthi rebels, toward the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Saturday.

UN Security Council demands aid be allowed into Yemen

Following Wednesday’s meeting, the UN Security Council demanded that Saudi Arabia open all borders into Yemen and allow humanitarian aid deliveries into the country.

Italian Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, whose country holds the council presidency, told reporters that all council members, including Saudi Arabia’s US and British allies, expressed concern about the “dire humanitarian situation in Yemen” and stressed “the importance of keeping all of Yemen’s ports and airports functioning.”

Lowcock also told reporters that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had held talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Wednesday, in which the UN head called for the immediate resumption of humanitarian access to Yemen.

Aid bodies stopped and turned away at the border 

Relief organizations reported this week that they had been barred from delivering aid into Yemen. The International Committee of the Red Cross said its shipment of chlorine tablets, which combat the spread of cholera, was stopped at Yemen’s northern border on Tuesday.

20 million people in  are reliant on humanitarian aid – that’s not getting in. Our call for action: http://ow.ly/WpB630gpVJx 

Meanwhile, the French medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported on Wednesday that it had been denied clearance for its flights into Yemen for the past three days.

“The broader impact of this blockade on the men, women and children of Yemen is already evident and it puts hundreds of thousands of lives at risk,” MSF’s head of mission in Yemen, Justin Armstrong, said.

Yemen is almost completely dependent on imports of food, fuel and medicine. According to UN aid agencies, the blockade has seen a surge in the price of basic goods in the Arab world’s poorest country.

The UN estimates that some 17 million Yemenis are in urgent need of food, 7 million of whom are facing famine. The outbreak and spread of cholera in the country has reportedly infected nearly 900,000 and cost some 2,000 lives.

Courtesy: DW

Watch video00:52

#ISpeakforButhaina: Picture of girl in Yemen goes viral

dm/sms (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)

North Korea issues threat ahead of UN sanctions vote

North Korea has said the US will pay a heavy price if the UN Security Council passes a new round of sanctions against Pyongyang. If approved, the sanctions would be the toughest ever issued against North Korea.

Nordkorea Kim Jong Un Armee Offiziere (Reuters/KCNA)

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement early on Monday saying that it was “ready and willing” to respond with its own measures should a new round of sanctions be approved later in the day.

Watch video01:04

China was North Korea’s last major trading partner.

Pyongyang is “ready and willing to use any form of ultimate means,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the country could cause the US “the greatest pain and suffering it had ever gone through in its entire history.”

The UN Security Council is due to vote on Monday afternoon, New York time, on a draft proposal of sanctions against the reclusive state.

Should they be approved, the measures would be the toughest sanctions ever passed against Pyongyang.

The Washington-drafted sanctions reportedly include a proposal to freeze leader Kim Jong Un’s assets and to place a ban on all oil and natural gas exports to the country.

“The U.S. is trying to use the DPRK’s legitimate self-defensive measures as an excuse to strangle and completely suffocate it,” the North’s statement said, using the acronym for the country’s formal name.

Read more: A closer look at which countries trade with North Korea

Infografik Nordkorea Import Export Partner ENG

Security Council due to vote

It was not clear whether veto-holding Russia and China would support the sanctions.

Prior UN sanctions resolutions have taken weeks or months of negations between the US and China, but the Trump administration demanded a quick turnaround for the vote.

The sanctions are in response to North Korea’s ongoing nuclear weapon and missile programs and its latest nuclear test.

On September 3, Pyongyang tested what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb in the most powerful nuclear test conducted by the country so far.

Read more: US-South Korea military drills – an unnecessary provocation of Kim Jong Un?

Infografik Kronologie Atomwaffentests Nordkorea ENG

A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the US, Britain, France, Russia or China to pass. Washington circulated its draft resolution to the 15-member council last Wednesday.

The UN imposed its most severe round of sanctions against North Korea just weeks ago, which included a complete ban on coal and iron exports as well as blocking international sales of North Korean seafood and lead ore.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leaders have expressed doubt over whether sanctions are an effective way to get the North to stop its missile tests. Beijing has repeatedly hesitated in the past to fully support US sanction plans.

Read more: North Korea: Germany, China back ‘peaceful’ dialogue

In an interview published Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also stressed the importance of diplomacy in defusing tensions with Pyongyang. She also offered to facilitate the talks if needed.

“If our participation in talks is wanted, I will say yes immediately,” she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.

rs/jm (AP, dpa, Reuters)

Watch video02:19

Putin warns of global ‘catastrophe’ over N Korea conflict

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

US pushes for new UN sanctions to slash North Korean export revenue

A new UN Security Council resolution drafted by the US aims to ban North Korean trade in coal, iron, lead and seafood. There was reportedly “high confidence” among that the resolution would be backed by Russia and China.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-UnNorth Korean leader Kim Jong Un pictured during military drills earlier this year

The UN Security Council is due to vote on Saturday over whether to toughen sanctions against North Korea, depriving the reclusive state of around $1 billion (850 million euro) in export revenue.

The draft resolution, which was circulated to the 15-member Security Council on Friday, would also halt countries from increasing the number of North Korean laborers working abroad, ban any new joint business ventures with the North Korean regime and ban fresh investment into such existing ventures.

Read more: US issues to ban travel to North Korea

Finally, the North’s Foreign Trade Bank, the country’s main clearing house, would be added to the UN’s sanctions blacklist.

Watch video00:31

Tillerson on North Korea: ‘We do not seek regime change’

Egypt, which currently holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency, confirmed that a vote on the draft resolution was scheduled for 3 pm local time in New York City (1900 UTC).

According to a council diplomat speaking to major news agencies on condition of anonymity, the US has been negotiating the proposed measures with China, Pyongyang’s principal ally and trading partner, since the North launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICMB) test on July 4.

However, those talks have gained in urgency over the past week, after a second ICBM test raised fears that Pyongyang could soon possess missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.

“These are export sectors where this money is viewed as a critical, critical source of hard currency that the North immediately turns around into its fantastically expensive war machine and these just amazingly expensive ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs,” the diplomatic source said.

The resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes from the council’s permanent members – the US, China, Russia, France and Britain – to be adopted.

Read more: Which US cities could North Korea’s ballistic missile hit?

Crucially, the draft text stopped short of curbing oil imports into North Korea, which would likely have dealt a massive blow to the country’s already cash-starved economy. Such a move would have faced a probable veto from China and Russia, who have vowed to not to support any measures that risk worsening North Korea’s humanitarian crisis.

Watch video01:22

North Korean economy grows nearly 4%

Chinese and Russian backing essential

The diplomatic source said there was “high confidence” that China and Russia would be on board with the latest series of sanctions, which would make it the seventh sanctions resolution passed since North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006.

Read more: Sent from North Korea, exploited in Poland

However, Russia has rejected assessments that Pyongyang’s latest tests saw the launch of long-range ICBMs, arguing that the missiles were medium-range. That, coupled with worsening relations between Moscow and Washington, could see negotiations over North Korean sanctions hampered.

Infografik North Korea's missile ranges

However, the fact that the proposal is expected to be voted on Saturday indicates that negotiations between the US and China have gone well, despite US President Donald Trump criticizing Beijing for not having done more to rein in North Korea.

When it comes to new sanctions being imposed on North Korea, both sides generally come to an agreement first before involving other Security Council members.

Nevertheless, differing views remain on how to handle North Korea’s military threat. The US, along with its European allies, as well as Japan and South Korea, maintain that increased sanctions are needed to force Pyongyang to halt its weapons program.

China and Russia, meanwhile, insist that talks are necessary, and sanctions alone will do nothing to alter North Korea’s behavior.

dm/gsw (afp, Reuters, AP)

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Tillerson in Beijing set to talk on North Korea, South China Sea

Rex Tillerson, the U.S. Secretary of State, arrived in Beijing on Saturday for a face-to-face meeting with a China official who last week likened the U.S., South Korea and North Korea to speeding trains ready to hit each other.

Tillerson’s visit followed his remarks in South Korea on Friday in which he warned that pre-emptive military action against North Korea might be necessary if the threat from their weapons program reaches a level “that we believe requires action.”

China, the North’s biggest source of diplomatic support and economic assistance, has yet to respond to his remarks, although Beijing has called repeatedly for steps to reduce tensions.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, with whom Tillerson was due to meet on Saturday afternoon, spoke about the tension between the countries. He said, “The question is: Are the two sides really ready for a head-on collision?” Wang told reporters. “Our priority now is to flash the red light and apply the brakes on both trains.”

Wang said North Korea could suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for a halt in joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, a proposal swiftly shot down by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who said Washington has to see “some sort of positive action” from North Korea before it can take leader Kim Jong Un seriously.

Tillerson: Nothing is off the table in dealing with N. Korea

Tillerson’s comments in Seoul that “all of the options are on the table,” including possible military action, are likely to be deeply disconcerting to Beijing, which fears that a collapse of Kim’s regime would send waves of refugees into northeastern China and land South Korean and American forces on its border.

China has agreed reluctantly to U.N. Security Council resolutions sanctioning North Korea, while calling for renewed dialogue under the Beijing-sponsored six-nation format that broke down in 2009.

In a further sign of its frustration with Pyongyang, China last month banned imports of North Korean coal for the rest of the year, potentially depriving Kim’s regime of a key source of foreign currency.

Past U.S. administrations have considered military force because of North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile to deliver them, but rarely has that option been expressed so explicitly as by Tillerson.

North Korea has accelerated its weapons development, violating multiple Security Council resolutions without being deterred by sanctions. The North conducted two nuclear test explosions and 24 ballistic missile tests last year. Experts say it could have a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. within a few years.

China has stridently opposed the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system to South Korea, saying its X-band radar can peer deep into China to monitor flights and rocket launches. The U.S. says it’s a system focused on North Korea. China sees it as a threat to its own security.

Tillerson’s visit to Beijing is the final stop on his three-nation swing through Northeast Asia, which began in Japan. State Department officials have described it as a “listening tour” as the administration seeks a coherent North Korea policy, well-coordinated with its Asian partners.

In Beijing, he is also expected to discuss China’s claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, including its building of islands atop coral reefs, complete with airstrips and military installations.

During his confirmation hearings in January, Tillerson compared China’s island-building and deployment of military assets to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, and suggesting China’s access to the island should not be allowed.

While President Donald Trump during his campaign pledged to slap 45 percent tariffs on imports from China and label the country a currency manipulator, there has been little sign of his doing either. His pick for U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, has said he would use a “multi-faceted approach” to cracking down on Chinese trade abuses.

Tillerson’s trip is also expected to highlight the Trump administration’s lack of concern with human rights abroad, formerly a key element of U.S. policy toward China and a major irritant for Beijing.

In a departure from past practice, Tillerson skipped the launch of an annual report on human rights last week that cited numerous abuses by China. He has also said the U.S. would not continue participating in the U.N. Human Rights Council unless it undergoes “considerable reform.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Trump administration: ‘We are officially putting Iran on notice’

 

Media captionDonald Trump repeated the remarks of his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn

President Donald Trump says the US is putting Iran formally “on notice” after the country tested a ballistic missile.

He was echoing the comments of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who has accused the Iranian government of “malign actions” over the test.

Washington earlier declared the test to be “absolutely unacceptable”.

Iran confirmed on Wednesday it had tested a missile over the weekend but denied violating a UN Security Council resolution on its nuclear activities.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, dismissed the comments, saying: “This is not the first time that an inexperienced person has threatened Iran.”

Reacting to the development on Thursday, Donald Trump tweeted: “Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!”

The president’s national security adviser had said the same in a daily press briefing on Wednesday, but did not provide any further details of what actions the US may be planning in response to the test.

‘Destabilising behaviour’

Pentagon officials say the missile test had failed upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.

The launch prompted the US to accuse Iran of violating UN resolution 2231, which “calls upon” Iran not to “undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons”.

The measure formed part of the resolution which endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal agreed by Iran with six world powers.

Mr Flynn did not accuse Tehran of violating that nuclear accord, but he did describe the Obama administration-brokered deal as “weak and ineffective”.

“Instead of being thankful to the United States for these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened,” he said.

He said “the Obama administration failed to respond adequately to Tehran’s malign actions – including weapons transfers, support for terrorism and other violations of international norms”.

Mr Flynn also pointed to a recent attack against a Saudi warship by Iranian-backed Houthi militants as evidence of “Iran’s destabilising behaviour across the Middle East”.

Media captionRebel-controlled al-Masira TV broadcast what it said was footage of the attack on the Saudi warship

During Mr Trump’s campaign for president, he frequently attacked the nuclear pact with Iran, vowing to “dismantle the disastrous deal”.

‘Nobody can influence our decision’

In December 2016, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told an audience at the University of Tehran that he would not allow Mr Trump to “rip up” the deal, Reuters news agency reported.

On Wednesday, Iranian Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan stood by the country’s missile test.

“We have previously announced that we will execute the programmes we have planned in production of defence equipment meant for our national interests and objectives,” Iranian media quoted him as saying.

“Nobody can influence our decision. We will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defence affairs. The test did not violate the nuclear deal or resolution 2231.”

%d bloggers like this: