By Michael Hernandez
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres voiced "regret" Wednesday that the Security Council had failed to agree on the proper recourse to a suspected chemical attack in Syria that killed dozens of people.
"I have also been closely following developments in the Security Council and regret that the Council has so far been unable to reach an agreement on this issue," Guterres said in a statement.
The UN chief said he phoned the ambassadors of the five permanent council members -- the U.S., Russia, China, the UK and France -- "to reiterate my deep concern about the risks of the current impasse and stressed the need to avoid the situation spiraling out of control".
"Let us not forget that, ultimately, our efforts must be about ending the terrible suffering of the Syrian people," he said.
Russia vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution Tuesday that would have established a new expert body to determine culpability for the suspected chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta on April 8.
The U.S. draft had the overwhelming support of the council with 12 members of the 15-member council voting in favor and only two -- Russia and Bolivia -- voting against. China abstained.
It was one of three votes held Tuesday after the White Helmets, a civil defense agency, blamed the Bashar al-Assad regime for attack, which it said killed 78 civilians and injured hundreds of others.
Russia's latest veto is its twelfth of council resolutions seeking to hold the Assad regime accountable for rights violations. Six of those resolutions would have condemned the regime for chemical weapons attacks.
Following the vote on the U.S.-drafted resolution, a Russian-drafted text failed to get the needed votes to pass the council. Unlike the U.S. measure, the Russian text would not have sought to assign blame for the attack but would have rather simply sought to determine if a chemical attack took place. In all, seven members voted against the Russian draft, with six voting in favor.
A third vote on a separate Russian resolution also failed to pass the council after six members abstained and four voted in opposition. The draft resolution would have endorsed an ongoing probe being conducted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) but would have done nothing else.
The OPCW probe is mandated to determine whether an attack took place but not to assign blame if it determines one was carried out.
Voting for the resolution "would be like watching a fire and identifying that there is a fire,” said Karen Pierce, Britain’s UN envoy.
Pierce earlier accused Russia of abusing "the power of veto to protect Syria".