Moscow blocks the prolongation of UN investigations on Damascus's use of chemical weapons
Russia exercises the right of veto in the Security Council. The US-led resolution calls for a 12-month extension of the joint committee's work. Today, a motion from Japan proposing the extension of 30 days. Tensions rise between Moscow and Washington.
Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Russia has applied its veto at the UN Security Council by blocking a resolution aimed at extending an international investigation into the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict. For the tenth time since the start of the war, President Bashar al-Assad's ally, Moscow has used his own power in the United Nations in support of Damascus.
The United States immediately criticized Russia. In a note US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley accuses the Kremlin of dealing a "harsh blow" to the organization's ability to prevent future chemical attacks. Moscow’s representative rejected these claims.
In 2015, the United Nations created an ad hoc body, the Joint Investigation Mechanism, to investigate the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks. It is the only official mission to verify the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
At the end of October, the joint panel accused the Syrian government of being responsible for the deadliest attack on April 4 on the rebel battalion of Khan Sheikhoun, about 50km from Idlib, northwest of Syria, where chemical weapons were used. This report was subject to criticism from the Kremlin and its conclusions were rejected by Damascus.
US Ambassador to the UN said Russia "has killed the investigative mechanism which has overwhelming support of this council”. “By eliminating our ability to identify the attackers, Russia has undermined our ability to deter future attack” she said.
In the context of the past investigations, the Joint Investigation Mechanism accused both the Syrian government and its opponents: Damascus used chlorine as a weapon on at least three occasions between 2014 and 2015; the militant jihadists used mustard gas in at least one attack.
At the same time, the UN Security Council rejected a counter-resolution proposed by Russia seeking to extend the investigation, while modifying the composition of the panel. In addition, the Kremlin wanted to close the results of the Khan Sheikhoun attack, which killed 80 mostly civilians.
Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzi claimed that Western nations have been sabotaging the investigations. He spoke of an "anti-Damascus fever" and "manipulation" of the Joint Investigation Mechanism for "personal" purposes.
Even Japan has intervened in the controversy that pits Moscow against the West. Tokyo has put forward a drafti UN resolution that calls for extending the work of the commission for 30 days. A period of time lower than the 12 months provided for in the US draft blocked by Russian rivals. The Security Council is due to vote on Tokyo’s counter-proposal later today.