Syria chemical attacks inquiry gets unanimous support at UN Security Council

© Mike Segar
The UN Security Council has called to create an inquiry that will seek to prosecute those behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The agreement was unanimous amongst the 15 member bloc, which was voting on the resolution.

The Security Council will now ask UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the head of the global anti-chemical weapons watchdog to prepare the inquiry. If the panel finds anyone guilty, that party is likely to face sanctions, the body has warned in the past.

Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin says he hopes the appointed experts will be professional and objective in their work.

“We believe the decision made today is primarily preventive in nature and it will help to ensure that no toxic chemicals will be used as weapons in the future in Syria,” he said.

The resolution condemned in the strongest possible terms any use of chemical weapons such as chlorine in Syria, while also noting that civilians were continuing to be killed by toxic chemical weapons.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said it was vital that those who were responsible for the chemical attacks are held accountable for their actions.

Pointing the finger matters,” Power told the Security Council after the vote.

However, Churkin mentioned that “a number of shortcuts” proposed by the West at the start of the Syrian crisis, which had been aimed against President Assad, had “backfired.” 

“To be honest, they only made the situation worse. We still don’t really understand what we need to do. One thing that is particularly clear is that our colleagues in the West are not taking the necessary measures to concentrate on the terrorist threat that is being posed in Syria and Iraq,” Churkin said after the session.

The document also states that no party in Syria should look to develop or use chemical weapons, while it calls on the all parties in Syria to identify and punish those who have used chemicals as weapons.

This was a move welcomed by Ban Ki-moon who said that it would hopefully alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people. 

© Bassam Khabieh

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To try and achieve this, a team of experts will be given the task of trying to identify the perpetrators and try to implement ways of punishing them. The document adds that the team of experts would be given unhindered access to all locations within Syria, as well as being allowed to interview witnesses and collect evidence in accordance with the draft resolution.

However, the Syrian envoy to the UN said they have nothing to hide and categorically denied claims that the country had used chemical weapons.

“The Syrian government has not used and will never use chemical weapons,” said Bashar Jaafari, who is the Syrian Ambassador to the UN. He also added that chemical weapon attacks against the Syrian army had been made.

The United Kingdom, France and the United States have repeatedly accused President Bashar Assad’s army of carrying out chemical weapon and barrel bomb attacks on the civilian population, saying that only Damascus possesses helicopters. However, this stance has been countered by Moscow, which claims that there is no evidence that the Syrian government is behind these attacks.

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Pressure has been mounting on the Security Council to take action, as the Syrian civil war enters its fifth year. The conflict has already claimed 240,000 lives, while Syria now has the world’s largest number of refugees, overtaking Afghanistan for the first time.

There are a total of 7.6 million Syrians who have had to flee their homes, with 3.9 million living outside the country, a report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated in June.