UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council overwhelmingly rejected a Russian resolution calling for condemnation of “aggression” by the United States, United Kingdom and France against Syria on Saturday, a vote reflecting support for the allied airstrikes on Syrian chemical sites.
But the vote at the end of an emergency meeting called by Russia also demonstrated again the paralysis of the U.N.’s most powerful body in dealing with Syria’s seven-year conflict.
Russia’s demand for condemnation and an immediate halt to “aggression” and “any further use of force” by the three Western allies got support from only two other countries on the 15-member Security Council — China and Bolivia.
By contrast, eight countries voted against the Russian draft — the U.S., U.K., France, Netherlands, Sweden, Kuwait, Poland and Ivory Coast. Four countries abstained — Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Equatorial Guinea and Peru.
At the meeting, the fifth in a week on chemical weapons in Syria, Russia and its supporters again clashed with the U.S. and its allies over a suspected poison gas attack on April 7 in the Damascus suburb of Douma.
The U.S., U.K. and France said they launched airstrikes against Syrian chemical sites after obtaining evidence that a chemical weapon was used by President Bashar Assad’s government. Russia and its ally Syria called the attack fabricated and said no evidence of chemical weapons use exists in Douma.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council “there is clear information demonstrating Assad’s culpability.”
And she said President Donald Trump told her Saturday morning that if the Syrian regime uses poisonous gas again “the United States is locked and loaded” to strike again.
“When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line,” Haley stressed. “The United States of America will not allow the Assad regime to continue using chemical weapons.”
France’s U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said the result of the vote sends “a clear message” that Security Council members recognized the need for the airstrikes, and “their proportional and targeted nature.”
“And what’s most important is no one contests that the use of chemical weapons cannot be tolerated and must be deterred,” he said. “That is essential.”
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the meeting confirmed that the U.S. and its allies “continue to put international politics and diplomacy in the realm of myth-making — myths invented in London, Paris and Washington.”
“We put facts contrary to your myths,” he said. “If we continue on this path, we will soon reach the diplomacy of the absurd.”
Russia and Syria also clashed with the three Western allies over the legality of the airstrikes and responsibility for the Security Council’s paralysis.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce blamed Russia for repeatedly vetoing resolutions on the use of chemical weapons in Syria and said the U.K. took military action “to save lives,” on the legal basis of “humanitarian intervention.”
Britain believes “that is wholly within the principles and practices of the United Nations,” she said.
Russia’s Nebenzia called it “a very sad day for the world, for the U.N., for its Charter which was blatantly, blatantly violated, and for the Security Council which has shirked its responsibilities.”
“I would like to believe that we will not see a day that is worse than today,” he said.
Looking ahead, Delattre said France, Britain and the United States will soon be presenting the Security Council with a new draft resolution aimed at achieving a lasting solution to the Syrian conflict that addresses political, chemical and humanitarian issues.
A draft resolution circulated by the three countries and obtained late Saturday by The Associated Press would condemn all use of chemical weapons, especially the April 7 attack in Douma.
Here are the Latest on developments in Syria:
The Syrian army has declared the eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus “fully liberated” after the last group of gunmen left the town of Douma. An army statement read by chief military spokesman Brig. Gen. Ali Mayhoub said Saturday that special units are clearing streets and squares of Douma from mines and explosives planted by rebels.
Douma is the largest town of the suburbs known as eastern Ghouta and its capture marks the biggest victory for President Bashar Assad’s forces since the conflict began seven years ago.
The army said that troops discovered weapons factories, arms depots, tunnels and food storage places.
It added that the army is preparing eastern Ghouta for tens of thousands who were displaced over the past two months during a crushing government offensive to retake the area.
Syrian state TV carried live images of hourslong street celebrations with people dancing and chanting in support of their government’s “steadfastness” following unprecedented joint airstrikes by the United States, France and Britain on Syria.
The report showed people waving Syrian flags, alongside those of Iran and Russia— the main allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad during years of the country’s conflict — in the face of what many called “limited” or even “failed” strikes designed to punish Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons.
Syrian air defenses intercepted most of the incoming missiles, according to the report, which urged citizens not to believe other media reports “intentionally or unintentionally” exaggerating the results of the attack.
Syrian state-run TV says Syrian police units are entering the town of Douma, site of a suspected chemical weapons attack and the last rebel town in the eastern Ghouta region.
Syrian TV showed police waving Syrian flags apparently on the edge of the town just east of Damascus, and said the “terrorist presence” in Douma will end “in a few hours.”
The entry of government forces to Douma follows a Russian-mediated deal that secured the surrender and evacuation of the rebels and thousands of civilians from the town.
Douma and the sprawling eastern Ghouta region near the capital, Damascus, had been under rebel control since 2012 and was a thorn in the side of President Bashar Assad’s government for years. The government’s capture of Douma, the last town held by the rebels in eastern Ghouta, marks a major victory for Assad.
Hundreds of Syrians demonstrated in a landmark square of the Syrian capital, waving victory signs and honking their car horns in a show of defiance.
The demonstrations broke out early Saturday following a wave of U.S., British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar Assad for suspected chemical attack against civilians. The Syrian government has denied the accusations.
In Damascus, the president’s seat of power, hundreds of residents gathered in Omayyad Square, many waving Syrian, Russian and Iranian flags. Some clapped their hands and danced, others drove in convoys, honking their horns.
State TV broadcast live from the square where a large crowd of civilians mixed with men in uniforms, including an actor, lawmakers and other figures.
“Good morning steadfastness,” one broadcaster said.