Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia has called on the United States and its allies to drop plans for potential military intervention in Syria, warning he “cannot exclude” the possibility of direct military confrontation between Moscow and Washington in case the Arab country is attacked.
Speaking after a closed-door UN Security Council meeting over US President Donald Trump’s threats of an imminent military action against Syria over an alleged chemical attack, Nebenzia told reporters Thursday that the presence of Russian troops in the Middle Eastern country had made the situation even more dangerous.
“The immediate priority is to avert the danger of war,” Nebenzia said. “We hope there will be no point of no return.”
Asked whether by that he meant a war between Russia and the US, the Russian envoy said, “We cannot exclude any possibilities, unfortunately, because we saw messages that are coming from Washington. They were very bellicose.”
The US and its allies have been threatening Damascus with military action since April 7, when a suspected chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, reportedly killed 60 people and injured hundreds more.
The possibility of an attack grew larger on Wednesday, after Trump warned Russia, one of Syria’s key supporters in the fight against foreign-backed militancy, to “get ready” to shoot down American missiles over Syria soon.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump said he would spend the day holding several meetings that he expected would lead to a decision “fairly soon.”
So far none of the Security Council meetings over the issue has yielded result. Calling another meeting of the council for Friday, Moscow has asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to brief the body in person.
Sweden also launched a new bid to prevent escalation by proposing a UNSC resolution on Thursday that would ask Guterres to send a high-level disarmament team to Syria to address “all outstanding issues” regarding the use of deadly chemical agents as weapons.
Some UN diplomats told Reuters that the proposal had failed to win much support among the 15-member council.
Thanking Sweden for the effort, Nebenzia said, “Frankly in the circumstances we find ourselves now, this is not an immediate priority.”
Moscow and Damascus have already invited the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to send a fact-finding mission to Douma and investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons there.
Damascus has destroyed its entire chemical weapons stockpile under a UN-brokered program overseen by the OPCW.