ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – In a statement released after joint air strikes by three Western nations targeted alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria, Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres gave a carefully-worded response, urging caution on all sides to prevent further escalation.
"I have been following closely the reports of air strikes in Syria conducted by the United States, France and the United Kingdom. There’s an obligation, particularly when dealing with matters of peace and security, to act consistently with the Charter of the United Nations and with international law in general."
The strikes came early Saturday morning in response to a suspected poisoned gas attack in the Syrian town of Douma one week earlier. The Pentagon reported afterward that sites in the capital of Damascus, as well as two additional locations near the city of Homs, were targetted.
According to Syrian relief workers, over 60 people were killed in the attack, and the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that about 500 additional residents were treated for “symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals.”
The Russian and Syrian governments both claim the reports are false, with the Kremlin on Wednesday stating that it hoped all parties involved in Syria would avoid actions that might destabilize the already fragile situation in the Middle East.
"Any use of chemical weapons is abhorrent," said Guterres. "I have repeatedly expressed my deep disappointment that the Security Council failed to agree on a dedicated mechanism for effective accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria."
The Secretary-General had called on the Security Council the day before to create an independent body to determine who had used chemical weapons in Syria.
In October, Russia vetoed the renewal of a Syria joint-inspection mandate in place then for three years. On Tuesday, Russia vetoed a US-drafted UN Security Council resolution that would have set up a new inquiry in the war-torn country to ascertain blame for chemical attacks.
In response to the joint strikes, the Russian Embassy to the United States released a statement characterizing them as, "a pre-designed scenario," and warned that "such actions will not be left without consequences." Before they occurred, US President Donald Trump and Russian officials previously traded provocative statements on social media about the possibility of US air strikes in Syria.
In his statement, Secretary-General Guterres urged "all [UN] Member States to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people."