Russian Federation and USA at odds over keeping Syria chemical experts

Syrian pro-government troops

Russian Federation has vetoed the US-initiated draft resolution of the United Nations Security Council on extending the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in Syria.

Russia, Syria's ally on the Security Council, has put forward its own draft resolution rejecting the findings of the 26-member United Nations panel, a proposal that has little chance of passage.

With two days left before Thursday's expiration of the mandate for the Joint Investigative Mechanism, known as the JIM, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told The Associated Press that "we are engaging with them".

Russian Federation has sharply criticized the JIM after its latest report blamed the Syrian air force for a sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun that left scores dead.

This would be a serious blow to efforts to hold those responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria accountable.

Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal brokered by Russian Federation and the United States.

The statement comes as a joint worldwide inquiry by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is set to expire Thursday.

President Donald Trump urged the council to support the panel's continued work, saying on Twitter that this would "ensure" that President Bashar al-Assad's "regime does not commit mass murder with chemical weapons ever again".

"Russia has refused to engage on our draft resolution — which the vast majority of council members agree is the most viable text — in spite of our multiple attempts to consider Russian concerns", said the spokesperson, who wasn't authorized to be quoted by name.

The United States, Britain and France have insisted that the JIM should be allowed to continue its work and that dozens of other cases of chemical weapons use in Syria must be investigated. "Not doing so would only give consent to such atrocities while tragically failing the Syrian people who have suffered from these despicable acts".

But the USA draft would support the JIM's experts pursuing investigations "in a manner they deem appropriate".

"We are of the view that the JIM report, the seventh report, has been established by a flagrant disregard of [the] basic higher standards of the Chemical Convention, UN Security Council resolutions and previous decisions by the ECE executive council", Shulgin said. And it would ask Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to recruit experienced staff from as wide a geographical basis "as practicable".

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