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To appease Russia, US seeks to prolong enquiry into Syria chemical weapons use

Syrians receive medical treatment after Assad regime carried out chemical gas attack in Damascus, Syria on 13 July 2017 [Ammar Suleyman/Anadolu Agency]
Syrians receive medical treatment after the Assad regime carried out a chemical gas attack in Damascus, Syria on 13 July 2017 [Ammar Suleyman/Anadolu Agency]

The US has submitted a resolution to extend the UN investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria in order to conclusively determine who is behind the attack, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced yesterday, according to the Associated Press.

The US is seeking a quick vote, Haley told reporters, so that the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) is renewed before October 26 when it is expected to present its findings on who was responsible for this year’s 4 April attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhun that killed nearly 100 people.

Haley said that there was “overwhelming support” amongst members of the UN Security Council to extend the investigation, adding that “Russia has made it very clear that should the report blame Syria [for the attack] they won’t have faith in the JIM. If the report doesn’t blame the Syrians then they say that they will.”

Read: Majority of Britons wrong believe Daesh responsible for more deaths than Assad

Whilst numerous international bodies, including the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the media agency Anadolu and the UN Commission of Inquiry have found and submitted evidence of chemical weapons being repeatedly used by the Syrian regime, it is up to the JIM to determine responsibility.

Russia, a close ally of the Syrian government, has accused the West of being hasty in judging President Bashar Al-Assad’s government as responsible for the attack, and condemned the findings of OPCW in June as “very biased”.

According to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, investigators are also currently assessing some 60 incidents in which chemical weapons have allegedly been used between December 2015 and March 2016. A joint United Nations and OPCW investigation has already found Syrian government forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015.

In July, the Assad regime claimed to have disposed all of its supplies of chemical weapons. However, a report released by the Syrian Network for Human Rights a month later found that the government had used chemical weapons a further five times since the attacks on Khan Sheikhun.

Read: Opposition calls on UN Security Council to punish Syrian regime for using chemical weapons

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