Ethiopia Abstains on Security Council vote to Impose Sanctions for Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

Tekeda Alemu, Permanent Representative of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to the UN, addresses the Council.
15 November 2013 File Photo

With ‘no’ votes from permanent members Russia and China, the United Nations Security Council today failed to adopt a resolution that would, according to press reports, have imposed sanctions against parties using chemical weapons in war-torn Syria.

While nine of the Council’s 15 members voted in favour, Bolivia joined Russia and China in rejecting the text, as Egypt, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan abstained. A negative vote – or veto – from one of the Council’s five permanent members means a resolution cannot be adopted.

Media reports suggest that the draft resolution would have established a sanctions regime, a committee and an expert panel to hold accountable those using and producing chemical weapons in Syria.

The text would also have imposed sanctions on a number of individuals and entities linked to the use of chemical weapons in cases where responsibility was established by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM).

Ethiopia’s representative, explaining his abstention, also condemned the use of chemical weapons for any reason under any circumstance. In Syria, however, the Joint Investigative Mechanism had not been able to find “highly convincing”, “substantial” or even “sufficient” evidence, but only “sufficient information”, he emphasized. While Ethiopia’s belief that the conclusions were not firm enough was not intended to cast aspersions on the Mechanism, he said, it was nevertheless obligated to point out areas requiring further inquiry.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said his country’s policy against the use of chemical weapons was uncompromising, adding that their use for any reason, or under any circumstance, violated international law. Condemning their use in Syria, as reported by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission, he said that determining those responsible — whether State or non-State actors, groups or other entities — should be based on conclusive findings and the perpetrators must be held accountable. Recalling that he had raised questions about the Joint Investigative Mechanism’s third and fourth reports, on which the draft’s sanctions proposal was based, he stressed that due to a number of constraints, the Mechanism could not have found “highly convincing”, “substantial” or even “sufficient” evidence, but only “sufficient information”. Ethiopia’s belief that the conclusions were not firm enough was not intended to cast aspersions on the Mechanism, he emphasized. Rather, it was obliged to point out areas requiring further inquiry so as to determine the individuals and entities responsible for chemical weapons use, he stressed, underlining the need to support the Mechanism and protect its independence.



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