SyriaRussia vetoes UN chemical weapons investigation in Syria

Published 20 November 2017

In an effort to protect the Assad regime from more damaging revelations about the regime’s use of chemical weapons, Russia, on Thursday and Friday, vetoed two resolutions to extend the mandate of Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), set up by the UN to investigate the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war. JIM’s mandate expired on Friday.

Russia on Thursday vetoed a U.S. resolution at the UN Security Council which would have extended an international investigation into chemical weapons use in Syria.

This is the tenth time Russia has blocked such a resolution at the Security Council to shield its Syrian ally from UN action since the civil war began. As a result, the mandate for the inquiry by the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), which is comprised of the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) expired Friday.

The draft resolution received eleven votes in favor, while Russia and Bolivia voted against it and China and Egypt abstained. Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, said Russia supported the idea of “a robust, professional mechanism that will help to prevent the proliferation of the threat of chemical terrorism in the region” but insisted that flaws in the U.S.-drafted resolution be corrected.

Bicom reports that Russia withdrew its own draft resolution, which the UK Mission to the UN said was “full of twisted facts and half-truths,” after it failed to convince Council members to consider it first and not second, as council rules required.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said Russia had “killed the Joint Investigative Mechanism” and struck a “deep blow” to efforts to find the responsible parties and hold them to account. She added that Russia’s veto meant it “accepts the use of chemical weapons in Syria.”

Matthew Rycroft, the UK ambassador to the UN, heavily criticized Russia saying “they cannot… or rather will not… accept any investigation that attributes blame to their Syria allies,” and that “Russian policy is to protect Syria, whatever the cost to Russia’s reputation.”

On Friday, Russia exercised its veto in the Security Council for the second time in as many days, vetoing a draft resolution tabled by Japan, which would extend the JIM for another thirty days.

At the end of October, the JIM said it is “confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017.” U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the findings represented “an appalling breach of the rules of war.”