Russia vetoes last-ditch bid to renew UN probe of chemical weapons in Syria

    18 de noviembre de 2017

    United Nations, Nov 17 (efe-epa).- Russia used its veto Friday for the second time in 24 hours to block a UN Security Council resolution re-authorizing an investigation into use of chemical weapons in Syria.

    Japan submitted the proposal to extend the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) for an additional 30 days.

    The authorization for the JIM officially expired at midnight Thursday, hours after Russian vetoed a US-drafted resolution to prolong the mission in Syria.

    Twelve of the 15 Security Council members voted in favor of the Japanese draft, while Russia and Bolivia were opposed. China abstained.

    Each of the five permanent members of the council - the US, Russia, China, France and Britain - has the power to veto a resolution.

    Though Moscow accuses the JIM of bias and a lack of professionalism, the West says Russia is simply trying to protect its allies in Damascus.

    "Russia's actions today and in recent weeks have been designed to delay, to distract and ultimately to defeat the effort to secure accountability for chemical weapons attacks in Syria," Nikki Haley, the US representative to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said after Friday's vote.

    This is the 11th time that Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar Assad, has used its veto to stop a resolution on Syria, where some 500,000 people have died in a civil war that erupted in March 2011.

    The JIM was created in 2015 with the support of all five permanent members of the Security Council.

    Late last month, the JIM issued a report blaming the Syrian government for an April 4 incident in the town of Khan Shaykhun, where more than 80 people were killed.

    The JIM concluded that the victims perished in a sarin-gas attack by the Syrian military.

    "Any extension of the JIM mandate is only possible for us if the fundamental flaws in its work are rectified," Russian UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia said Friday after casting the veto.

    "There can be no other way after the JIM's leadership disgraced itself with its fictitious investigation into the sarin use incident in Khan Shaykhun and signed off on baseless accusations against Syria," he said.

    A Russian draft resolution to maintain the JIM with the changes sought by Moscow was defeated handily on Thursday, receiving only four votes.

    Despite Friday's initiative by Japan being seen as a final opportunity to extend the JIM, Sweden was among a number of Security Council members urging closed-door discussions in pursuit of a possible compromise.

    Syria handed over its chemical weapons arsenal to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons under a 2013 accord brokered by Washington and Moscow.