The five permanent members of the UN Security Council failed to reach an agreement Wednesday on a British-proposed resolution that would authorize the use of military force against Syria. Envoys from the countries – Russia, China, the U.S., Britain and France – met for about an hour and declined comment afterwards. The draft resolution was sent back to their governments for consultations, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed Western diplomat. If it were to be put to a vote, the draft resolution would almost certainly be vetoed by Russia and China, which have blocked past attempts to sanction President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Here’s the latest:
• A statement from the government of Germany Wednesday condemned Bashar al-Assad's regime for its apparent poison gas attack on the Syrian people. The leaders of Germany and Britain believe that Syria’s government should not to go unpunished, the statement said, adding that Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister David Cameron agreed in a telephone discussion that the use of poison gas in last week’s attack near Damascus was now sufficiently proven.
Just four weeks before elections in which Merkel hopes to win a third term, she faces a balancing act in how to respond to pictures of the suspected chemical weapons attack, as German voters are overwhelmingly opposed to military action in Syria.
• Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and signaled their shared opposition to military intervention in Syria war, the Kremlin said after the leaders spoke by phone on Wednesday.
• Information from a variety of sources points to President Bashar al-Assad’s forces being responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday. He said any use of such weapons was “unacceptable and cannot go unanswered.” However, he did not suggest any response but said the military alliance would keep the situation under “close review.”
• One report says a Syrian Ministry of Defence official exchanged “panicked” phone calls with the leader of a chemical weapons unit in the hours after the suspected attack. Foreign Policy reported that U.S. intelligence agents overheard the phone calls and that the intercepts form a major part of the American case for launching military strikes against the regime.
• Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said any attack on Syria would be folly while one of his deputies urged the 15-nation Security Council to wait for a report from UN chemical weapons inspectors. “It would be premature, at the least, to discuss any Security Council reaction until the UN inspectors working in Syria present their report,” Interfax quoted deputy foreign minister Vladimir Titov as saying.
• While calling for another four days to allow the inspectors to complete their mission, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pleaded for unity at the Security Council. “The body entrusted with maintaining international peace and security cannot be missing in action,” he said in a speech at The Hague. “The Council must at last find the unity to act. It must use its authority for peace.”
• Despite the wrangling, U.S.-led air or missile strikes on Syria look all but certain, though the timing is not clear. The planned action comes even though officials have not presented concrete proof of chemical weapons use. Secretary of State John Kerry has said there is “undeniable” evidence of a large-scale poison gas attack, with intelligence pointing to Mr. al-Assad’s regime.
• Meanwhile, Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN’s special envoy to Syria, on Wednesday said evidence suggests some kind of chemical “substance” was used in Syria to kill hundreds of civilians last week. He called the attack “outrageous” but did not elaborate on the source of the evidence.
• Oil prices spiked to their highest levels in six months, while stocks fell on uncertainty over the escalation of the conflict at the heart of the oil-exporting Middle East.
• UN chemical weapons experts on Wednesday made a second trip to the site of the suspected chemical weapons attack in rebel-held suburbs of Damascus. After facing sniper fire on Monday that damaged a vehicle, the team delayed their trip to the site on Tuesday because of safety concerns.
• Several media companies, including the New York Times and Twitter, lost control of their websites Tuesday and Wednesday after hackers supporting the Syrian government breached an Australian company that manages many major site addresses.
With reports from Reuters and The Associated Press