11 April 2018 07:59:05 IST

Security Council fails to adopt resolutions on chemical weapons use in Syria

It couldn't rally the votes needed to launch an independent mechanism of investigation into the incident

The UN Security Council has failed to adopt two competing resolutions that would have established a mechanism to investigate use of chemical weapons in Syria as well as another concerning a fact-finding mission in the war-torn country.

The Security Council, voting yesterday on the three separate draft resolutions, failed to rally the votes needed to launch an independent mechanism of investigation into the incident, as delegates voiced frustration over the continued paralysis and the expanding rifts between nations.

The first draft considered yesterday — penned by the United States — which would have established a new investigative mechanism for one year, as well as identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons, was rejected owing to a negative vote from Russia. The draft received 12 votes in favour, two against (Bolivia and Russia) and one abstention (China).

US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said after the vote that month after month, the Assad regime, with full support of Russia and Iran, has strung along this Council. She said her delegation had conducted transparent negotiations when drafting the resolution and had gone the extra mile in incorporating the views of the Russian Federation.

“And when the people of Douma, along with the rest of the international community, looked to this Council to act, one country stood in the way. History will record that. History will record that, on this day, Russia chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people,” she said.

Russia’s UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia, speaking following its veto, said the United States was attempting to mislead the international community.

He said the draft would have been an attempt to recreate the Joint Investigative Mechanism — whose mandate had not been renewed in late 2017 — which had become a puppet of anti-Damascus forces and shamed itself by rendering a guilty verdict against a sovereign State with no evidence.

He added that the new mechanism, as proposed by the United States, would carry out an investigation with no regard to the standards set out in the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction, known as the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Yesterday’s meeting marked the 12th time Russia has used its veto to block Council action on Syria.

The meeting came says after reports of a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma.

Similarly, a competing draft — penned by Russia — which would have established the mechanism for one year as well but would have given the Security Council the responsibility to assign accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, was also not adopted.

By the terms of that text, the Council would have established a United Nations independent mechanism of investigation, also for an initial period of one year, and urged it to fully ensure a truly impartial, independent, professional and credible way to conduct its investigation.

It would have further directed the mechanism to make full use of all credible, verified and corroborated evidence collected by the OPCW fact-finding mission, while also directing it to collect and examine additional information and sources not obtained or prepared by the mission, including all information provided by the Government of Syria and others on the activities of non-State actors.

Six Council members — Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan and Russia voted in favour of the draft while seven against (France, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden, UK and US) and two abstentions (Cote d’Ivoire and Kuwait).

The Council rejected a third text — also proposed by Russia — which concerned the work of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM). The draft received five votes in favour (Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Russia), four against (France, Poland, the UK and the US), and six abstentions (Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru, and Sweden).

Syria’s UN envoy Bashar Ja’afari, speaking at the close of the meeting, emphasized that his Government had officially invited the OPCW to send its fact-finding mission to investigate. He said Syria would fully cooperate and provide access to a liberated Douma.

Criticising the positions of the US, UK and France, he said that some permanent Council members were attempting to cover up domestic crises and conflicts among their political elites. After seven years of filthy terrorist war in Syria, the choice was clear, he said adding that the Council should stand up to lies, conscious that international public opinion would be judging its ability to safeguard the world.

Ahead of the Security Council meetings, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had repeated his call on 15-member body to find unity on the issue of use of chemical weapons in Syria and ensure accountability.

The norms against chemical weapons must be upheld. I appeal to the Security Council to fulfil its responsibility and find unity on this issue, he said.

I also encourage the Council to redouble its efforts to agree on a dedicated mechanism for accountability,” he said.