The United States has warned it could take unilateral action if the United Nations fails to respond to a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town in Syria that killed more than 80 people, including many children.
“When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Wednesday.
The warning came during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called by France and Britain after an early morning attack on Tuesday in Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.
Britain, France and the US presented a draft resolution demanding a full investigation of the attack, which they blamed on the Syrian government.
But talks ended without a vote after Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the text was “categorically unacceptable”.
Syria has denied the allegations, while Russia had blamed the rebels, saying the deaths occurred when a government shell hit a rebel chemical weapons depot.
Haley lashed out at Moscow for failing to rein in Damascus, standing in the council chamber to hold up photographs of victims – one showing a young child lying lifeless, a mask covering his face.
“How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” she asked.
“If Russia has the influence in Syria that it claims to have, we need to see them use it,” she said. “We need to see them put an end to these horrific acts.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said at least 86 people, including 30 children, were killed in the raid on Khan Sheikhoun.
Dozens more were left gasping for air, convulsing, and foaming at the mouth, doctors said.
If confirmed, it will be the worst chemical weapons attack in Syria since 2013, when sarin gas was used on a rebel-held area of Damascus.