Thank you, Mr. President.
Yesterday, I said that history will record this moment when we either lived up to our responsibility as a Security Council or showed our complete failure to protect the Syrian people. Today, we have our answer. The votes have been cast. The record will show that today, some countries decided to stand up for truth, accountability, and justice for the Syrian people. Most countries saw the horror that took place in Douma last weekend at the hands of the Assad regime and realized that today was a time for action.
Month after month, the Assad regime, with full support of Russia and Iran, has strung along this Council. They ignored our calls for a ceasefire. They ignored our calls for political dialogue. They ignored our calls for deliveries of humanitarian aid. They ignored our calls to stop using chemical weapons – weapons that are universally banned from war. And then, last weekend, the Assad regime forced a moment of reckoning on all of us by gassing people of Douma.
The United States and the countries that joined us today could not allow this attack to go unanswered. The record will not be kind to one permanent member of this Council. Unfortunately, Russia has chosen the Assad regime again over the unity of this council. We have said it before that Russia will stop at nothing to shield the Assad regime. And here is our answer.
Russia has trashed the credibility of the Council. They are not interested in unity or compromise. Whenever we propose anything meaningful on Russia, Russia vetoes it. It’s a travesty. They have now officially vetoed resolutions that would hold these barbaric uses of chemical attacks by Assad six times. It did not need to turn out this way.
For weeks, the United States has led transparent, good faith negotiations with all Security Council members to establish an attribution mechanism for chemical weapons in Syria. We started from a simple premise – that every Council member would want to know who was responsible for using these barbaric and illegal weapons. We did everything to accommodate Russia’s views. Russia surprised us with a proposed resolution, calling all of us into the Security Council and handing out a draft on the spot. After hearing widespread concerns about their draft, Russia moved ahead anyway – accommodating no one’s views.
We could have done the same thing. But instead, we tried to take as much as we could from Russia’s draft, while maintaining an impartial and independent process. We were negotiating in good faith. Many aspects of our resolutions were similar. Russia said investigators should have safe access to the places where chemical weapons were used. We agreed. Russia said they wanted an impartial, independent, and professional investigation. We agreed. Russia said that the investigators should be recruited on as wide a geographical basis as possible. We agreed. Russia said they wanted reports on the activities of non-State actors involving chemical weapons. Even though this sounded to us like an attempt to distract from the Assad regime, we included Russia’s request. We even gave our mechanism the name Russia wanted – the United Nations Independent Mechanism of Investigation.
There were really only two key differences between our draft and Russia’s. But those differences speak volumes. First, Russia wanted to give themselves the chance to approve the investigators who were chosen for the task. And second, Russia wanted to have the Security Council assess the findings of any investigation before any report was released. Does any of that sound independent or impartial?
So Russia’s proposal wasn’t about an independent and impartial investigation at all. It was all about protecting the Assad regime. This is a sad day. The United States takes no pleasure in seeing Russia exercise its sixth veto on the issue of chemical weapons in Syria.
Just last week, we hoped that the one-year anniversary of the Khan Sheikhoun attack might be the start of a renewed partnership to combat chemical weapons. But these deadly weapons have been used on Syrian families again. And when the people of Douma, along with the rest of the international community, looked to this Council to act, one country stood in the way. History will record that. History will record that, on this day, Russia chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people.