Russia and the United States have drawn up rival UN Security Council resolutions on extending the mission of a body of international experts probing chemical attacks in Syria.
The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) was formed by a Security Council resolution in 2015, and is run jointly by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world body’s chemical weapons watchdog.
Russia, however, has been exceedingly critical of JIM’s reports, finding faults with its evidence gathering techniques.
On October 14, Russia vetoed a US-sponsored Security Council resolution that would have renewed the experts’ mandate for a year. It said it would wait for an official report on an alleged sarin gas attack last year in northwestern Syria by the mission to decide whether it would back extending its mandate.
The report came out two days after the veto, blaming Syria for the incident which took place in April 2016 in the town of Khan Shaykhun and killed over 90 people.
Both Russia and Syria have rejected the report.
Reacting to the report on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry said the JIM experts had produced it without even turning up on site despite being offered guarantees of safety.
Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the ministry’s arms control and non-proliferation department, said, “Imagine a criminal investigation in which police refuse to visit the site of the crime. No court will ever accept it.” “But they consider it possible to do such thing at the UN Security Council,” he noted.
According to a draft resolution obtained by news agencies, both the American and Russian versions demand the JIM mission’s extension, but under totally different conditions.
According to AFP, Russia wants the UN Security Council to shelve the latest JIM report and launch a new investigation into the Khan Shaykhun incident.
The Russian draft also urged a six-month extension of the UN-led panel’s mission, while the version put forward by the US calls for a two-year extension of the mandate, the report added.
The Associated Press also reported that the Russian draft resolution on the future of JIM’s mandate urges the mission to send investigators to Khan Shaykhun, where the attack reportedly happened, and the Shayrat airfield in Syria’s central Homs Province, which the US attacked later in April with missiles under the pretext of punishing Syria.
The accusations against the Damascus government come while Syria has turned over its entire chemical stockpile under a deal negotiated by Russia and the United States back in 2013. The OPCW supervised that removal process.