Wed Apr 5, 2017 1:51PM
Members of the United Nations Security Council meet at the UN headquarters in New York City on April 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Members of the United Nations Security Council meet at the UN headquarters in New York City on April 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Representatives from Russia and Western countries have been engaged in a war of words during an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) concerning a recent suspected chemical attack in Syria.

They clashed on Wednesday over a resolution drafted by Britain, France and the US, which condemned the suspected toxic gas attack in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province and demanded a full investigation into Tuesday’s incident.

Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Vladimir Safronkov said such attacks were provoked by ex-US President Barack Obama's threat of military action if a "red line" was crossed and chemical weapons were used in Syria.

"That decision served as a starting point for future provocations by terrorists and extremist structures with the use of chemical weapons, they sought to discredit… Damascus… and to create a pretext for the use of military force against a sovereign state," he said.

Five permanent members of the Security Council, among them Russia, have the power to veto UN resolutions that need nine positive votes and no vetoes to pass.

Russia has on several occasions blocked anti-Damascus motions at the Security Council.

Western-proposed motion ‘unacceptable’

Separately on Wednesday, Russia denounced as “unacceptable” the Western-proposed draft resolution.

"We do not believe it is expedient to pass a resolution on the chemical weapons attack in its present form," Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying on Wednesday.

Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

Elsewhere in her comments, Zakharova questioned the data on which the latest proposed UN resolution was based, stressing that the motion would exacerbate tensions in Syria and the region.

“Unfortunately, based on totally fake information, the United States, France and Great Britain have once again planted - one cannot put it any other way - into the UN Security Council a draft resolution which has a completely anti-Syrian character," she said.

The motion "pre-empts the results of an investigation and just immediately designates the guilty,” she added.

The suspected chemical attack targeted the town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province on Tuesday. It was followed by alleged air raids that hit a hospital where victims of the assault were being treated.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 72.

Syria’s opposition accused the Syrian government of bombing Khan Shaykhun with chemical munitions.

However, the Syrian army categorically denied the accusation about its involvement in the deadly attack, emphasizing that it "has never used them, anytime, anywhere, and will not do so in the future."

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the deaths were caused when a Syrian air strike struck a "terrorist warehouse" used for making bombs containing "toxic substances.”