The Cold War has returned, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday in describing the military crisis in Syria.
“The Cold War is back with a vengeance, but with a difference. The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present,” Guterres told the U.N. Security Council. “Increasing tensions and the inability to reach a compromise in the establishment of an accountability mechanism threaten to lead to a full-blown military escalation.”
He advised countries to “act responsibly in these dangerous circumstances.”
His reference to the post-World War II faceoff between the United States and the Soviet Union, and their allies, came at a Security Council meeting notable for its hostility. Vassily Nebenzia, Russian ambassador to the U.N., accused the U.S. of unfairly taking advantage of reports of a chemical attack against Syrian citizens to plot the topping of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which has been linked to the attack that killed dozens of people last weekend in the rebel-held town of Douma.
Nebenzia also condemned what he called the “bellicose rhetoric” of President Donald Trump’s threat of a missile strike in Syria. He said such threats are counter to the U.N. charter and that the United States is “unworthy” of a permanent seat at the Security Council.
“I’m in awe, Vassily, of how you say that with a straight face,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley responded. She also accused the Assad government of using chemical weapons on its own citizens on at least 50 occasions, and added that Russia failed to uphold a 2013 agreement by which Syria would dispose of all its chemical weapons.
“It is Russia alone that used its veto six times to prevent the condemnation of use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Haley responded. “We must not stay silent in the face of chemical weapons use in our own time. No country can be allowed to use chemical weapons with impunity.”
French ambassador Francois Delattre added that his government has evidence that the Assad government is responsible for the Apr. 7 chemical attack. Delattre added that the Syrian government’s decision to use chemical weapons meant that it had “reached the point of no return.”
Guterres told the Security Council that “the norms against chemical weapons must be held.” In 2017 he warmed against “the situation spiraling out of control.”
By Ed Adamczyk