Security Council urged to prevent ‘uncontrollable escalation’ in Syria

UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, on Monday briefed the emergency Security Council meeting following reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria over the weekend.

The recent escalating violence across Syria, including allegations of chemical weapons use in a Damascus suburb, could have consequences so devastating they are “difficult to even imagine,” the UN envoy warned, calling for unity among global powers to prevent a chain of events that could draw in actors far beyond the region.

“The Council cannot allow a situation of uncontrollable escalation to develop in Syria, on any front,” he said.

Amid deadly attacks and heightened human suffering across the war-torn country, the first priority must be to protect civilians, he underlined, calling on all sides to respect international law and ensure humanitarian access to all people in need.

The Security Council’s emergency meeting was convened amid sharp deterioration in the situation in the war-torn country with reports of dozens killed in an alleged chemical weapons attack as well as heightened conflict across Syria.

Also briefing the Council Monday, Thomas Markram, the Deputy High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – which monitors implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and works to rid the world of such weapons – is gathering information on the alleged incidents over the weekend and will report its findings on this alleged attack.

“The use of chemical weapons is unjustifiable. Those responsible must be held to account,” he underscored.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday expressed deep concern over renewed violence in Douma, particularly the alarming allegations that chemical weapons may have been used against civilians.

A statement from UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said while the UN is not in a position to verify these reports about the chemical attacks, “the Secretary-General notes that any use of chemical weapons, if confirmed, is abhorrent, and requires a thorough investigation.”

The United States on its part said that if confirmed, the reports on the use of chemical weapons “are horrifying and demand an immediate response by the international community”.

“The United States continues to use all efforts available to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable. The regime’s history of using chemical weapons against its own people is not in dispute, and in fact nearly one year ago on April 4, 2017, Assad’s forces conducted a sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun, which killed approximately 100 Syrians, the State Department Spokesman Heather Nauert said in a statement released on Friday.

For the spokesperson, Russia, with its unwavering support for the regime, ultimately bears responsibility for these brutal attacks, targeting of countless civilians, and the suffocation of Syria’s most vulnerable communities with chemical weapons.

By shielding its ally Syria, Russia has betrayed the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Council Resolution 2118. Russia’s protection of the Assad regime and failure to stop the use of chemical weapons in Syria calls into question its commitment to resolving the overall crisis and to larger non-proliferation priorities, he said.

The United States calls on Russia to end this unmitigated support immediately and work with the international community to prevent further, barbaric chemical weapons attacks.

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