United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (C, front) addresses a Security Council emergency meeting on Syria at the UN headquarters in New York, April 14, 2018. Russia has requested an emergency meeting of the Security Council for Saturday to discuss the situation after airstrikes in Syria by the United States, France and Britain. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
UNITED NATIONS, April 14 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday expressed concern over Friday's joint military action against Syria by the United States, France and Britain, and called for adherence to the UN Charter and international law on the issue.
"As secretary-general of the United Nations, it is my duty to remind member states that there is an obligation, particularly when dealing with matters of peace and security, to act consistently with the Charter of the United Nations and with international law in general," Guterres told an emergency Security Council meeting requested by Russia.
"The UN Charter is very clear on these issues. The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. I call on the members of the Security Council to unite and exercise that responsibility," he said.
"I urge all member states to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate matters and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people."
He repeated the need to avoid the situation from spiraling out of control.
"In Syria, we see confrontations and proxy wars involving several national armies, a number of armed opposition groups, many national and international militia, foreign fighters from everywhere in the world, and various terrorist organizations." he said.
"From the beginning, we have witnessed systematic violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international law tout court -- in utter disregard of the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter."
Guterres said he had been following closely the reports of airstrikes in Syria conducted by the three countries, all of them are permanent members of the Security Council.
The three countries indicated that they were targeting the chemical weapons capabilities of the Syrian government and to deter their future use, said Guterres.
The airstrikes were reportedly limited to three military locations inside Syria. The first target included the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center at al-Mazzah Airport in Damascus; the second, an alleged chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs; and the third, an alleged chemical weapons equipment storage site and command post, also near Homs, said the UN chief.
The Syrian government announced surface-to-air missile response activity. Both U.S. and Russian sources indicated there were no civilian casualties, he said.
The United Nations, however, is unable to independently verify the details of those reports, he said.
The United States, France and Britain launched missile attacks in Syria on Friday following reports of chemical weapons use in Douma near the capital city of Damascus on April 7.
"Any use of chemical weapons is abhorrent. The suffering it causes is horrendous," said Guterres.
He expressed deep disappointment at the failure of the Security Council to agree on a dedicated mechanism for effective accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
"I urge the Security Council to assume its responsibilities and fill this gap. I will continue to engage with member states to help achieve this objective."
A lack of accountability emboldens those who would use such weapons by providing them with the reassurance of impunity. This in turn further weakens the norm proscribing the use of chemical weapons and the international disarmament and non-proliferation architecture as a whole, he said.
The seriousness of the recent allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Douma requires a thorough investigation using impartial, independent and professional expertise, he said.
He reaffirmed his full support for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and its Fact-Finding Mission in undertaking the required investigation.
"The team is already in Syria. I am informed that their operations plan to visit the site is completed and they are ready to go. I am confident that they will have full access, without any restrictions or impediments to perform their activities."
The Fact-Finding Mission of the OPCW may investigate chemical attacks, but it does not have the power to attribute responsibility as the case with the now-defunct Joint Investigative Mechanism between the OPCW and the United Nations.
The Joint Investigative Mechanism had found that both the Syrian government and the Islamic State terrorist group used chemical weapons in Syria. The mechanism ceased to be in November 2017 after Russia blocked the renewal of its mandate.
Guterres stressed that there is no military solution to the Syria crisis. "The solution must be political. We must find ways to make credible progress toward a genuine and credible political solution that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people to dignity and freedom in accordance with (Security Council) Resolution 2254 and the Geneva Communique."
He said he has asked his Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, to come to New York as soon as possible to consult on the most effective way to accelerate the political process.