UN Security Council greenlights Syria chemical probe
15-member body approves formation of investigative panel to attribute blame for toxic attacks in Syria

The UN Security Council on Thursday gave its final approval to establishing a joint investigative panel tasked with determining who is to blame for toxic weapons attacks in Syria.

Last month, the 15-member body adopted a resolution asking UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to set up the panel, which will also be able to assign blame for the use of such weapons.

Until now, OPCW's fact-finding missions could only determine whether chemical weapons have been used.

In an Aug. 27 letter to the Council, the UN chief recommended that the joint investigative mechanism be formed under the leadership of a three-member panel headed by a UN Assistant Secretary-General with overall responsibility, and two deputies responsible respectively for the political and investigation components.

On Thursday, the Council agreed on Ban's plan, paving way for the new investigative body to begin its work within weeks.

The Council was expected to endorse the plan within five days after it received Ban's letter, but the move was delayed by Russia, which reportedly wanted the panel to probe Daesh's alleged toxic attacks in neighboring Iraq.

The Aug. 7 resolution was adopted as a result of rare cooperation between the U.S. and Russia on Syria.

The use of chlorine and other toxic chemicals as a weapon in Syria has been previously documented.

An OPCW fact-finding mission found in Sep. 2014 "with a high degree of confidence, that chlorine was used as a weapon systematically and repeatedly in three villages in northern Syria".

In Sep. 2013, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding that the Syrian regime dismantle its chemical weapons arsenal, without threatening further action if it did not comply.

The resolution came in response to an Aug. 21, 2013, suspected poison gas attack near Damascus that killed more than 1,400 people.

The council adopted another resolution in March, strongly condemning the use of any toxic chemical, such as chlorine, as a weapon in Syria and calling for those who use such weapons to be held accountable.

Despite these moves, bomb attacks suspected of involving chlorine have continued.

Last Modified: 2015-09-11 09:07:17
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