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Russia vetoes UN chemical weapons investigation in Syria

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Russia vetoed a US resolution at the UN Security Council on Thursday that 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 Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), will expire today.

The draft resolution received 11 votes in favour, 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 US-drafted resolution be corrected.

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 US 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 criticised 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”.

The Security Council is due to vote on a new resolution today.  Japan tabled a draft resolution after yesterday’s vote that would extend the JIM for another 30 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.” UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the findings represented “an appalling breach of the rules of war”.