PV International Desk : Russia’s U.N. ambassador warned that a British-led attempt to beef up the global chemical weapons watchdog, including giving it the job of determining blame for chemical attacks, is “dangerous” and could hurt peace efforts in Syria.
Vassily Nebenzia told The Associated Press he hopes supporters of the effort will realize they are undermining The Hague, Netherlands-based watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as well as encroaching on the “province of the Security Council.”
Nebenzia, who is president of the Security Council this month, said he raised the issue in closed consultations Monday and planned to do so again because there was interest in continuing the discussion.
The watchdog’s Executive Council announced last week that a special session of the 192 parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention will take place June 26-27 following a request by more than the required 64 state parties.
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson announced the move to convene a special session last month, saying it was “in response to shocking recent chemical attacks,” including those in the English city of Salisbury, in Syria’s civil war, and by the Islamic State group in Iraq. Britain has accused Russia of using a nerve agent in the attempted assassination in March in Salisbury of former spy Sergei Skripal, which Moscow denies.
The OPCW currently has a mandate to carry out investigations to determine only if chemical weapons have been used — but not to determine responsibility.
The Security Council established a joint U.N.-OPCW investigative team to determine responsibility for chemical attacks in Syria. But Russia vetoed a Western-backed resolution in November that would have renewed the joint team’s mandate and efforts since them to replace it have failed, making accountability exceedingly difficult.
The joint team accused Syria of using chlorine gas in at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 and the nerve agent sarin in an aerial attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 that killed about 100 people and affected about 200 others. The latter attack led to a U.S. airstrike on a Syrian airfield.
The team also accused the Islamic State extremist group of using mustard gas twice in 2015 and 2016.
Nebenzia was sharply critical of the team’s investigative methods at the time and said it “became a puppet in the hands of anti-Damascus forces.”