UNITED NATIONS -- A looming U.S.-led military intervention in Syria drew sharp and divided reaction from U.N. leaders and member states Thursday, with many calling for U.N. debate ahead of any action.
While Secretary General Ban Ki-moon awaited the findings of a U.N. chemical weapons team inside Syria, Security Council members, foreign ministers and other U.N. officials weighed in on whether military action should commence before the U.N. team has a chance to present its report.
“There are rules of the game,” said Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda, president-elect of the upcoming 68th session of the General Assembly. “If you are part of the body, surely one should abide by the rules that constitute that body.”
Ashe, along with Ban, representatives of the Security Council and other U.N. members said they would disapprove of any military intervention in Syria before the U.N. team’s report has been reviewed and before the matter is brought up formally before the council.
“If you do ask the United Nations to investigate something, it would be helpful, I have thought, to at least get the results of that investigation,” Ashe said.
Ban cut short a trip to Vienna so he could personally receive the results from the investigation’s team, which is expected to leave Syria by Saturday.
Meanwhile, other Latin American and Caribbean members of the U.N., including Argentina and Brazil, said they would oppose military intervention without a Security Council debate.
Argentina, which held the rotating presidency of the council this month, said in a statement Thursday that it “strongly” supports Ban’s investigation.
“[We] hope to have conclusive results, transparent, objective and impartial shortly,” Argentina said in the statement from its Foreign Ministry. “Argentina, with Latin America, has been emphatic in defending the principle of foreign military intervention. [However], our country believes that foreign military operations would not do anything but aggravate the situation.”
Brazil, through its newly appointed foreign minister, said it has always opposed armed intervention without Security Council authorization.
“We will always consider it a violation of international law and of the U.N. Charter,” said Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, the former U.N. ambassador.
Despite the opposition, President Barack Obama kept up the prospect of a military response to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons in its civil conflict. Administration officials met with key members of Congress on Thursday, fueling speculation that a strike against Syria could come in days and without U.N. authorization.
The five permanent members of the Security Council failed to agree on a resolution after meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, with Russia using its veto to block any military-force resolution.
The United States, however, has the support of at least one non-permanent council member. On Wednesday, Australia, which assumes the presidency of the Security Council next month, said it would support a military strike in Syria, with or without U.N. authorization.
The use of military force, at least in recent international crises, has not always followed U.N. approval.
During the Libyan crisis in 2011, the council approved a no-fly zone authorizing international military response to protect civilians. That intervention led to Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster.
But during the war in Kosovo, NATO forces intervened before the council in 1999 instituted a peacekeeping force. Coincidentally, the council met Thursday to discuss that force.