Russia proposes new investigative body for chemical weapons use in Syria, U.S. remains wary

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-24 12:53:17|Editor: Yamei
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UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Russia on Tuesday proposed a new investigative body under the auspices of the Security Council to determine the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in Syria, but the United States remained wary of the Russian move.

In a Security Council meeting on Syria, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Vassily Nebenzia proposed a new international investigative body that would be able to establish evidence for the Security Council to identify perpetrators in the use of chemical weapons.

The investigative body should be professional and apolitical and should work on the basis of "irreproachable and corroborated information received from transparent and credible sources," said Nebenzia.

He said his delegation has drawn up a draft resolution and asked for its circulation among the delegations.

Nebenzia expressed the hope that delegations to the Security Council would consider the text, saying Russia stands ready for engagement in "substantive consultations."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, however, questioned Russia's intentions, noting that Russia used its veto three times in 2017 to kill the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations for chemical weapons use in Syria.

"So we're not going to accept any Russian proposal that undermines our ability to get to the truth or that politicizes what must be an independent and impartial investigation," Haley told the same meeting.

The joint UN-OPCW panel, which was called "a complete failure" and "a mechanism for political manipulation" by the Russian ambassador, was set up in 2015 and unanimously endorsed by the Security Council.

Previous reports by the JIM have found that both the Syrian government forces and the Islamic State group in the country were responsible for using chemical weapons.

Haley told the council that the United States is ready to re-establish the JIM "with its original independent and impartial mandate," but "anything less is unacceptable," she said.

She indicated that the Russian proposal was a distraction from the French-led International Partnership against Impunity for Use of Chemical Weapons, which was launched on Tuesday in Paris with the participation of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The Security Council meeting was called by Russia amid reports of new chemical weapons use in Syria and the launch of the international partnership that brought together 25 countries.

Several countries saw value in the Russian proposal and expressed interest in looking into the draft resolution.

"We must urgently consider the development of a new investigative tool," said Kazakh Ambassador to the United Nations Kairat Umarov.

Olof Skoog, the Swedish ambassador to the United Nations, urged the council to "come back together and speak with one voice."

"We need to be forward-looking and overcome our differences with a view to protecting the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime and ensuring accountability," he added.

According to a UN statement, a new round of peace talks on Syria is expected to take place in Vienna, Austria on Thursday and Friday, while Russia will organize negotiations in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Jan. 29-30, aiming to find a way to end the country's nearly seven-year war.