The US and Russia clashed in the UN Security Council over the missile attack on a Syrian airfield, with Washington warning it is "prepared to do more" as Moscow accused it of flagrantly violating international law with its "act of aggression." The 15-nation Security Council met for an emergency meeting on Friday on the situation in Syria following the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles by US into the Shayrat Airbase as a response to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons from the base.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who is President of the Council for this month, said Washington was "fully justified" in carrying out the missile strikes and was prepared to take further action. "Our military destroyed the airfield from which this week's chemical strike took place. We were fully justified in doing so," Haley said. "The United States took a very measured step last night. We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary. It is time for all civilised nations to stop the horrors that are taking place in Syria and demand a political solution," she said.
Haley said the US will no longer wait for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to use chemical weapons without any consequences. "The moral stain of the Assad regime could no longer go unanswered. His crimes against humanity could no longer be met with empty words. It was time to say "enough", but not only say it – it was time to act. Bashar al-Assad must never use chemical weapons again. Ever," she said. Haley also called out Russia, saying it, along with Iran, bears considerable responsibility for the crisis in Syria since "every time Assad has crossed the line of human decency, Russia has stood beside him."
Russia tore into the US, calling the missile strikes on Syrian territory a "flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression. "We strongly condemn the illegitimate actions by the US. The consequences of this for regional and international stability could be extremely serious," Russia's deputy UN ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said. A visibly agitated Safronkov said Washington, London and Paris have a "paranoiac idea" of overthrowing the legitimate government in sovereign Syria. In a particularly sharp attack against UK, Safronkov told Britain's UN envoy Matthew Rycroft to "stop putting unprofessional accusations" against Russia.
"These (accusations) are not diplomatic. They are lies. Once again, I warn don't even try to get into fights in the Arab world. Nothing will be achieved. That is why you are getting annoyed. All Arab countries recall your colonial hypocrisy," he said. Safronkov called on the US to "immediately cease" its aggression and join efforts towards a political settlement in Syria. Syria's envoy Mounzer Mounzer said the air strike by the US against his country had been a "treacherous, barbaric, flagrant act of aggression" and a grave violation of international law and the UN charter.
"The US attempted to justify its aggression with fabricated arguments that Syria had used chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun — the same justification advanced by terrorist groups and the countries supporting them," he said. He asserted that Syria does not have chemical weapons in the first place and would never use such weapons as it condemns the use of such weapons. He said it was well known that terrorists had stockpiled chemical agents in Syria, in cooperation with Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other States outside the region.
"This aggression will surely send an erroneous message to the terrorist groups, emboldening them to use more chemical weapons in the future," he warned. The air strike was a grave extrapolation of the United States strategy to support so-called moderate opposition groups, he said. That country led a purported alliance against ISIL/Daesh, while its real objective was to weaken Syria and its allies, he said. Citing the American claim that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and its consequent military invasion in the country, Mounzer said the US was once again using fabricated evidence to justify its actions and spread hegemony around the world. Haley said Russia is supposed to be a guarantor of the removal of chemical weapons from Syria but obviously has failed in that endeavour.