Russia is ready to veto a draft resolution calling for sanctions against Syria over the use of chemical weapons on civilians, its deputy UN ambassador said on Friday.
“There is an argument that the resolution itself contradicts the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence before the investigation is over,” said Vladimir Safronkov after a Security Council meeting to discuss the text, according to Reuters.
A diplomat said on Thursday that the Security Council will likely vote on a resolution sanctioning Syrian officials over chemical weapons attacks as early as next week.
The resolution, if it passes, would blacklist 11 Syrian military commanders and officials and also seeks to ban the sale or supply of helicopters to the Syrian government, as well as blacklist 10 government and related entities involved in the development and production of chemical weapons and the missiles to deliver them.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a recently released major report that Syrian government forces had carried out at least eight chemical attacks in late 2016 as they were fighting to capture second city Aleppo.
The report followed the discovery by a joint inquiry of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that Syrian government forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks and that Islamic State jihadists had used mustard gas.
Syria continuously denies using chemical weapons during the civil war, claiming that the allegations are “a campaign of lies” made by “Western circles”.
Safronkov argued on Friday that there is “tremendous pressure” on the OPCW inquiry to produce a one-sided result.
“We will veto” the resolution if it is put to a vote, he stressed.
Russia, a close ally of Syria, has already used its veto power six times to block action on Syria.
The Russian envoy’s comments were later criticized by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.
“How much longer is Russia going to continue to babysit and make excuses for the Syrian regime?” she told reporters, adding that after an “overwhelming” vote to investigate whether Syria was using chemical weapons, “the results have come out and people don’t like what the results are. It is ridiculous.”
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