UN Secretary-General on Syria: 'The Cold War is back'

UN chief Antonio Guterres | File AP

UN chief Antonio Guterres | File AP

Two days ago US President Donald Trump warned that missiles "will be coming" in response to that attack, leaving open the prospect of Western military action that could lead to confrontation with Russian Federation.

He went on to stress that the UN Security Council, of which the three countries are permanent members, "has primary responsibility for the maintenance of global peace and security".

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres should urgently appoint a team of investigators to identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Human Rights Watch and 44 other human rights and humanitarian groups said in a statement released today.

"We are banking on sober thinking among both American politicians and U.S. military brass, who perfectly understand that the risk of a clash between the two superpowers really does exist", he said.

"I wish there was dialogue through appropriate channels to avert any risky development".

Russia, which has said it would militarily counter any strike launched against Syria, believes the reports of chemical attacks are part of a strategy created to justify foreign intervention.

But France's United Nations ambassador Francois Delattre told the council that in choosing once again to use banned chemical weapons against civilians, Assad's regime had "reached a point of no-return". "The secretary-general has the means and authority to take command of the situation as his predecessors did by establishing an investigative unit that will unmask those behind chemical attacks in Syria".

This would increase the risk of a clash with the Russian forces in Syria to defend Assad, and United Nations chief Antonio Guterres warned the Security Council to beware a "full-blown military escalation".

"I have been closely following the reports of air strikes in Syria conducted by the United States, France and the United Kingdom".

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The UN Security Council has been unable to reach agreement over Syria.

Russian Federation vetoed a US-drafted resolution to create a new inquiry to ascertain blame for such attacks.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday said the Middle East is "in chaos", warning it has become a threat to global peace and security and Syria "represents the most serious threat".

He "regretted" the Russian veto at the U.N. Security Council which prevented a "united and firm response" after a suspected gas attack last week in Douma, Syria. The Syrian government has denied the allegations.

"I'm not going to say which day we absolutely knew that there was proof".

By "deciding once again to use chemical weapons" in the rebel-held town of Douma, "the regime has reached a point of no-return", Delattre said.

The use of chemical weapons constitutes a war crime. Troianovski reported from Moscow.

"History will record that, on this day, Russian Federation chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people", Haley said, referring to Assad.

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