‘US acting as if it’s above law; that weakens international system’ – Bolivian representative at UN
On Thursday Russia vetoed a US draft resolution at the UN Security Council (UNSC) to extend the work of an inquiry into the deadly chemical incident in Khan Shaykhun, Syria, in April. The joint investigation by the UN and OPCW (the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) concluded the Syrian government used the banned chemical weapon sarin.
To be approved a resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the permanent members of the UNSC. Eleven countries voted in favor of the US resolution, while Russia and Bolivia opposed it. Egypt and China abstained.
Sacha Llorenty, Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Ambassador of Bolivia to the UN told RT why Bolivia decided to take such step and become the only country to join Russia in voting against Washington’s proposal.
Sacha Llorenty: First of all let me say that Bolivia [and] the countries of my region, we condemn the use of chemical weapons, and we want the ones who are responsible for the use of the chemical weapons to be held accountable, because it is a crime against all the principals of the UN. We voted against the resolution because that resolution did not represent what we need for a joint mechanism to do.
There were many, many members of the Council that have stressed their concerns regarding how the Joint Investigative Mechanism has been issuing this last report. So we made a proposal – there was another draft that was initially submitted by Russia and China with some specific concerns. For instance, just to give you an example, we really believe the investigation should be done in situ. So if we talk about the alleged attack in Khan Shaykhun, the JIM, the Joint Investigative Mechanism, should go to that place and collect evidence to have a more transparent, independent and complete investigation.
We’re really worried, because [on Thursday] the Security Council wasn’t showing the best that it could do. But we’re still hopeful that sooner than later we will have an agreement, and we will extend the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism. That is why we believe that we should engage in more negotiations and avoid this kind of situations in which there is finger pointing or blaming one or other country.
RT: After Russia withdrew its own draft resolution, Bolivia asked for it to be put back on the table for a vote. But it was rejected. Why do you think the other Security Council members were unwilling to back the Russian proposals seeking to reform the joint probe?
SL: It is a matter of two things. One is – the alignment of some countries regarding their own interests. And the other one – there are issues in relation to how each country sees how the JIM should work. There are different approaches to that. But I think there is a common ground. Common ground is that there should be investigations and the ones that commit these kinds of war crimes should be held accountable.
Inspectors didn’t go within 100km of site since it’s controlled by Al-Qaeda-linked rebels, but trusted the same rebels to gather samples & keep them – author of Blood On Our Hands https://t.co/QrbF80Crhm— RT (@RT_com) November 17, 2017
If the nations around that table, the ones of the UNSC, are united, it means that there should be a compromise, they should engage in the negotiation; they should try to accommodate the interest of all of them. There is still some hope for that to be achieved. This is a very important issue - not just for the Council, not just for Syria, the US, or Russia, but for the whole world. The use of this kind of weapons should be eradicated from our world.
For us, it is a particularly important issue because we remember and we keep in our minds what happened on April 7, when the US violating international law took unilateral action, and they attacked a Syrian base. It is a complex issue, and we believe that at the end of the day it should be an independent and professional body that should investigate this kind of allegations.
RT: Have you seen any change in stance toward the Syrian conflict from the Obama to the Trump administration?
SL: I think that there are mixed signals regarding Syria. In the Obama administration, I remember one of their officials said that Bashar Assad was a dead man walking. Then in [the Trump] administration, they said they are not seeking regime change. Now that they say that Assad shouldn’t play any role in the future of Syria. It is difficult to have a conclusion on that.
But the fact is that the influence the US had in the region as a whole is a negative one. We cannot talk about Syria, we don’t talk about Iraq, we don’t talk about terrorism. We all know that if the invasion [of Iraq] of 2003 hadn’t taken place then we might not be talking about ISIS right now. The policies of regime change the US and some of their allies were imposing in Syria and in Libya, [and] Iraq are causing all this fragility in the region, this turbulence, war, the flood of refugees – that is something that we need to discuss. We need to discuss the root causes of the conflict. And one of them is unilateral interventions; the other one is the policy of regime change, and the other is trying to finance these groups are opposing - in this case - the Syrian government. If it is true that all the countries are fighting against terrorism, then there shouldn’t be that kind of problem, the misunderstandings that we are facing right now in the Security Council and some other places.
RT: The UN Ambassador the UN Nikki Haley warned the Council vote that the US “will do it again” if they must – that is in reference to the US strike against the Syrian airbase.
There is a willingness to take unilateral actions seemingly from the US, even though the Trump and Putin agreed at the APEC summit on some common ground. Do you think there is a bit of mixed signals coming from the US with regards to future steps on cooperation in Syria with ISIS obviously on the verge of defeat?
SL: There are mixed signals. I think that the US acts with arrogance in many of these cases. If they are part of the UN, if they benefit from being a permanent member of Security Council with the right to veto, for instance; if they benefit from being in the most sensitive and to control the most sensitive and the most important bodies of the UN – they should also uphold its principals and the UN Charter.
The UN Charter prohibits unilateral actions; those are against international law. They act as if they are above the law. That weakens the international system; it is a real threat to international peace and security…