- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Russian envoy to the United Nations’ Security Council delivered a scathing diatribe against recent U.S. military action in Syria, as Moscow prepares to block a council resolution condemning President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

Angrily addressing council members during Wednesday’s meeting, Russian deputy United Nations ambassador’s Vladimir Safronkov demanded Washington to “immediately cease its aggression” in Syria and warned the U.S. to “stay out of the Arab world.”

The council is set to vote on a new resolution stating Mr. Assad’s forces were responsible for a deadly chemical attack in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, which left over 80 dead, including 11 children.

Russia, a permanent member of the U.N. security council plans to veto the measure. Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the Interfax news agency Wednesday the draft resolution is “unacceptable to us in its current form.”

Moscow “will vote against it if our partners do not heed our calls and promote this draft artificially with the sole purpose of making the Russian Federation veto it again,” he added.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during bilateral security talks Wednesday in Moscow. The meeting with Mr. Putin was a last-minute addition to Mr. Tillerson’s itinerary.

The Russian president had refused a meeting with the top U.S. diplomat after U.S. warships attacked the al Shayrat airbase in western Syria on Friday. American intelligence showed the base was where Syrian forces launched the chemical attack on Idlib. Russian military advisers were also stationed at the base at the time of the attack.

While diplomatic U.S.-Russian relations in Moscow were thawing, tensions were heating up at U.N. headquarters in New York.

At one point during Wednesday’s speech, a visibly agitated Mr. Safronkov yelled at council President and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley to “look at me” as he was addressing the council. “We cannot accept when you insult Russia!” he said during one particularly unhinged moment during Wednesday’s contentious meeting.

He also accused the U.S. of blaming the Assad regime of chemical weapons use — which are banned under the international rules of war — without providing any proof.

“They don’t present evidence, they prefer info from websites, blogs and NGOs,” Mr. Safronkov said.

His comments were part of a “very clear campaign to obfuscate” details of Idlib chemical strike and Syria’s use of chemical weapons by Russia, a White House official said Tuesday.

“We are very confident that terrorist or non-state actors did not carry out this attack,” the official said, on the condition of anonymity, refuting Moscow’s claim the weapons used in Idlib belonged to al Qaeda splinter factions fighting in Idlib.

Ms. Haley on Wednesday defended the U.S. military response in Syria, telling U.N. security council members that “the U.S. was compelled to act. … We will not look the other way.”

“Every time one of Assad’s planes drops a barrel bomb” on civilians, Damascus and its allies in Moscow isolate themselves further from the international community, Ms. Haley said.

“It is long past time for Russia to stop covering for Assad,” she added.

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