U.S. welcomes UN report on Syria as Russia warns against hasty conclusions
U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Monday welcomed the UN report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, hailing it as a reinforcement of the U.S. previous assessment that "these attacks were carried out by the Syrian regime."
Meanwhile, Russia criticized some Western countries for jumping to conclusions in favor of the Syrian opposition, saying all facts and questions "need to be addressed seriously and professionally."
"We welcome the report made public today by the United Nations mission established by Secretary-General Ban (Ki-moon) to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria," said Rice in a statement released by the White House.
Citing the report, Rice noted that technical evidence, including the statement that the sarin was high-quality and that a particular type of rocket was used in the attack, reinforced the U.S. view that "these attacks were carried out by the Syrian regime, as only they had the capability to mount an attack in this manner."
"If diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act," she warned.
On the same day, John Baird, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, echoed Rice with a severe condemnation against the Syrian government for launching the chemical attack.
"This report provides additional evidence supporting the conclusion that inhumane and indiscriminate chemical weapons were used by the (Syrian President Bashar) Assad regime," said the minister.
Canada has called for a political solution to Syria's conflict and total destruction of chemical weapons, but does not plan to launch a military strike of its own against Damascus and has previously said it would not send military aid to the opposition.
Despite the restraint from its neighbor, U.S. President Barack Obama released an executive order Monday to officially authorize non-lethal military aid to the Syrian opposition, in order to prevent the use and proliferation of chemical weapons.
Hours before Obama's decision, France, the United States and Britain agreed in Paris to file a "strong and robust" UN resolution, which includes an accurate schedule and "binding" conditions on the Syrian handover of chemical arms.
"We want to see quickly concrete and real acts of the Syrian regime... The resolution will include serious consequences if it will not be respected and that perpetrators of the committed crime have to make their accounts," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
In another development, Russia, a stanch ally of Assad, criticized on Monday some Western countries for jumping to conclusions in favor of the Syrian opposition, saying all facts and questions "need to be addressed seriously and professionally."
Condemning "all cases of the use of chemical weapons in Syria," Vitaly Churkin, Russia's UN ambassador, called for "some colleagues... to study the report very carefully."
"First of all, we have not had the chance to look at the report. We were given the report when consultations started and the secretary-general had already completed his remarks. We had a quick glance but were not really able to study," he said. "We want everyone to treat it in an extremely serious manner and look at it with eyes of experts."
He raised questions that there are no reports of casualties on the opposition side after the alleged attacks.
Late Monday, Liu Jieyi, Chinese ambassador to UN condemned any use of chemical weapons, calling on the international community to beef up their efforts for a political solution to the Syria crisis.
"China firmly opposes and strongly condemns any use of chemical weapons," he said, urging relevant parties to immediately stop the violence and bloodshed in Syria.
Hailing the political solution as the only way out of the Syria crisis, the Chinese envoy urged the international community to pave the way for the destruction of the chemical weapons and the second Geneva meeting.
China is willing to enhance communication and coordination with all relevant parties and make unremitting efforts in this regard, he added.
Early Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefed the Security Council in a closed-door meeting about the report from a fact-finding group looking into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria on Aug.21.
The report confirmed that chemical weapons were used in Ghouta, Syria, without assigning blame.