UN adopts resolution on Syria chemical weapons probe
Unanimously adopted measure marks shift in Moscow's stance regarding UN action on Syria

The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution to establish a panel to determine who used chemical weapons in Syria.

The U.S.-drafted resolution on Friday asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to set up a joint investigative panel within 20 days to identify attackers who used chlorine and other toxic agents in Syria.

It sanctions the panel "to identify to the greatest extent feasible individuals, entities, groups, or governments who were perpetrators, organizers, sponsors or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons, including chlorine or any other toxic chemical" in the war-torn country.

It also paved the way for holding to account specific organizations or individuals responsible for the deadly chlorine gas attacks.

The U.S. and its allies, as well as civil rights groups, have repeatedly accused the Syrian regime of launching chlorine attacks through barrel bombs dropped from its helicopters.

The resolution came to a vote after months of discussions with Russia, which is an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has protected his regime from any Security Council action during the four-year civil war that has left at least 250,000 people dead.

Its adoption is considered a shift in Moscow's stance regarding UN action on Syria.

Speaking to the council, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said that the resolution's unanimous adoption sent "a clear and powerful message to all those involved in chemical weapons attacks" in Syria.

"The joint investigative mechanism will identify you if you gas people," she said.

"We all know that we currently lack an effective mechanism for holding criminally accountable those responsible. But when the day comes that we have one, and that day will come, the evidence gathered by the joint investigative mechanism will stand as a record not just for what has been done but who has done it," she added.

Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said that the adoption "reaffirms the opportunity for productive joint work on most urgent problems of our times".

He said that the measure was primarily preventive and laid foundation for the prevention of future use of toxic chemicals in Syria.

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

A fact-finding mission by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found in September 2014 "with a high degree of confidence, that chlorine was used as a weapon systematically and repeatedly in three villages in northern Syria".

In September 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 August 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: 2015-08-08 07:11:20
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