Russia and the United States tangled on Tuesday at the United Nations over the use of chemical weapons in Syria as Washington and its allies considered whether to strike at President Bashar al-Assad’s forces over a suspected poison gas attack last weekend.
Moscow and Washington halted attempts by each other in the U.N. Security Council to set up international investigations into chemical weapons attacks in Syria, which is in the throes of a seven-year-old civil war.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Western allies are discussing possible military action to punish Assad for a suspected poison gas attack on Saturday on a rebel-held town that long had held out against government forces.
Trump on Tuesday canceled a planned trip to Latin America later this week to focus instead on responding to the Syria incident, the White House said. Trump had on Monday warned of a quick, forceful response once responsibility for the Syria attack was established.
Pan-European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol warned airlines to exercise caution in the eastern Mediterranean due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria in next 72 hours.
On the diplomatic front, the United Nations Security Council failed to approve three draft resolutions on chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Russia vetoed a U.S. text, while two Russian-drafted resolutions failed to get a minimum nine votes to pass.
Moscow opposes any Western strike on its close ally Assad and has vetoed Security Council action on Syria 12 times since the conflict started.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Security Council that adopting the U.S.-drafted resolution was the least that member nations could do.
“History will record that, on this day, Russia chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people,” Haley said, referring to Assad.
At least 60 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in Saturday’s suspected chemical weapons attack on the town of Douma, according to a Syrian relief group.