Security Council votes Friday on Syria chemical attacks

AP News
Posted: Aug 06, 2015 7:04 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council votes Friday on a draft resolution aimed at identifying the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria so they can be brought to justice.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reached agreement on the text Wednesday, and the 13 other council members had until Thursday morning to raise objections. None did.

While Russia and the United States have failed to agree on a way to end the Syrian conflict, now in its fifth year, they did agree two years ago on eliminating the country's chemical weapons stockpile. What has been missing is a way to assign blame for chemical weapons attacks.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the global chemical weapons watchdog, has a mandate to carry out fact-finding missions to determine whether chemical attacks have occurred. But neither the organization nor the U.N. has a mandate to determine responsibility.

The United States has been pressing for the council to take action to ensure accountability for a growing number of alleged chlorine attacks in Syria that have caused deaths and injuries.

Kerry told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia earlier Thursday that the resolution "will create a process of accountability which has been missing" to actually find out who used chemical weapons.

The final draft of the resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, asks the U.N. secretary-general, in coordination with the OPCW director-general, to submit to the council within 20 days recommendations to establish a joint investigative body.

That body would identify those responsible "or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons" in Syria.

In March, the council approved a U.S.-drafted resolution that threatens measures, including sanctions, over the use of toxic chemicals as weapons in Syria.

New Zealand's U.N. Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, a council member, said agreement on the text of the resolution "will at least go some distance towards satisfying those who are concerned about the apparent impunity of people being able to use these weapons."

Following a chemical weapon attack on a Damascus suburb that killed hundreds of civilians in August 2013, the council ordered the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons program. Syria's declared stockpile of 1,300 metric tons of chemicals has been destroyed, but the OPCW is investigating possible undeclared chemical weapons.

Chlorine is not officially considered a warfare agent and was not among the chemicals declared by Syria, but its use as a weapon is illegal.


Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia contributed to this report