United Nations chief warns against escalation over Syria

Guterres remarks came in the wake of combined military air strikes by the United States, the UK and France against President Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime.

Haley made clear that the US administration was taking time to assess the full implications of military strikes on Syria after Russia warned that it could lead to a risky US-Russian war.

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 worldwide peace and security".

Both Syria and its ally Russian Federation have said they would guarantee the safety and security of the OPCW mission - the first outside Damascus since 2014.

Damascus, in turn, has denied the accusations of having attacked civilians using chemical weapons in Duma. I call on the members of the Security Council to unite and exercise that responsibility.

"I have also been closely following developments in the Security Council and regret that the Council has so far been unable to reach agreement on this issue", Guterres said in a statement. "I will continue to engage with the Member States to help achieve this objective", he added.

Earlier on Friday, the Secretary-General had called on the Security Council to create an independent body to determine who had used chemical weapons in Syria.

"In Syria, we see confrontations and proxy wars involving several national armies, a number of armed opposition groups, many national and worldwide militia, foreign fighters from everywhere in the world, and various terrorist organisations", he added.

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The situation in Syria significantly escalated over the last week because of an alleged chemical attack in the city of Duma, located in the embattled Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, reports of which first emerged on Saturday.

Guterres, in a letter to the Council two days ago, expressed his "deep disappointment" at the failure of establishing an accountability mechanism similar to JIM.

"For eight long years the people of Syria have endured suffering upon suffering".

Addressing the Security Council, Haley laid out Washington's case for resorting to force, challenging Russia's claim that military action would be in violation of global law.

Echoing the U.S. stance, France said Assad's government had reached a "point of no return" with repeated use of chemical weapons.

The United Nations Secretary-General has called on the worldwide community to avoid actions which could escalate the crisis in Syria and deepen the suffering of its people.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

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