Rus­sia, U.S. Stale­mate Over Syria Chem­i­cal Weapons In­quiry

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UNITED NA­TIONS (Reuters) - Rus­sia said on Mon­day it was talk­ing to the United States about the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil re­new­ing an in­ter­na­tional in­quiry into chem­i­cal weapons at­tacks in Syria, but Wash­ing­ton coun­tered that Moscow had re­fused to en­gage on a U.S.-drafted res­o­lu­tion.

The man­date for the joint in­quiry by the U.N. and the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons (OPCW), which has found the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment used the banned nerve agent sarin in an April 4 at­tack, ex­pires on Fri­day.

Rus­sia ve­toed an ini­tial U.S. bid to re­new the joint in­ves­ti­ga­tion on Oct. 24, say­ing it wanted to wait for the re­lease of the lat­est in­ves­ti­ga­tion’s re­port two days later. It has since pro­posed its own ri­val draft res­o­lu­tion.

“We are talk­ing to the U.S., it’s not over yet,” Rus­sian U.N. Am­bas­sador Vass­ily Neben­zia told re­porters on Mon­day.

The in­quiry’s re­port found the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment was re­spon­si­ble for the April 4 at­tack us­ing sarin in the op­po­si­tion-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, killing dozens of peo­ple. The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment has de­nied us­ing chem­i­cal weapons.

“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,” a spokesman for the U.S. mis­sion to the United Na­tions said on Mon­day.

A res­o­lu­tion needs nine votes in fa­vor and no ve­toes by Rus­sia, China, the United States, Bri­tain and France to pass. The coun­cil unan­i­mously cre­ated the in­quiry, known as the Joint In­ves­tiga­tive Mech­a­nism (JIM), in 2015 and re­newed it in 2016.

“It is im­por­tant that the JIM is re­newed but on an up­dated man­date be­cause the sys­temic er­rors that we saw with the re­cent re­port should be cor­rected and that’s the aim of our res­o­lu­tion,” Neben­zia said.

He added that if the man­date of the in­quiry was not re­newed, “It may send a bad sig­nal, but the way the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been con­ducted sends an even worse sig­nal.”

The JIM pre­vi­ously found that Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces were re­spon­si­ble for three chlo­rine gas at­tacks in 2014 and 2015 and that Is­lamic State mil­i­tants used mus­tard gas.

“The draft text Rus­sia put for­ward with­out any ne­go­ti­a­tion is un­help­ful, has no sup­port, and can­not be taken se­ri­ously,” said the spokesman for the U.S. mis­sion.

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

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