Russia Demands that US Respect Agreement on Antiterrorism in Syria

Henrietta Brewer
November 17, 2017

The UN Security Council has failed to adopt the draft text of the United States addressing the renewal of the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the UN investigating chemical attacks in Syria.

The United States and Russia, Syria's ally, have put forward rival draft resolutions on renewing the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), tasked with investigating Syria's toxic gas attacks.

It remained unclear whether Russian Federation would veto the US-drafted measure, which would be the 10th time that Moscow has used its veto power at the council to block action targeting its Syrian ally.

Russia Demands that US Respect Agreement on Antiterrorism in Syria

In April, more than 80 people were killed in a sarin attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun - an attack that prompted the United States to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase.

But Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who backed the Bolivia-drafted resolution, said his country wanted the JIM's life to be extended - but that he could not support the US -drafted resolution because the JIM lacked the professional standards in its current form to properly assign responsibility.

United Nations diplomats said they were expecting a Russian veto of the USA text during the council meeting scheduled for 3:00 pm (2000 GMT).

Washington and its allies have blamed President Bashar al-Assad's government for the attack, but Syria has denied using chemical weapons, with strong backing from Russian Federation. Egypt and China abstained, while Bolivia joined Russian Federation in voting against the measure.

As part of their work, UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said before the vote, the JIM investigators had looked into "the frankly ridiculous conspiracy theories that some were coming up with to explain away the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Assad regime". A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China to be adopted.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has said it aims to correct "systemic errors" of the inquiry, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism. We will defend the worldwide standard against chemical weapons use.

Previous reports by the JIM have found that Syrian government forces were responsible for chlorine attacks on three villages in 2014 and 2015, and that the Islamic State group used mustard gas in 2015.

He said, "we have always maintained that the JIM should carry out comprehensive, objective and impartial investigations into chemical attacks in Syria".

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