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Russia, US submit mutually exclusive UN resolutions on Syria chemical probe

The two documents have different time frames

UN, November 3. /TASS/. Russia and the United States have submitted to the UN Security Council mutually exclusive resolutions on extending the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), investigating chemical incidents in Syria, a UN source told TASS.

The two documents have different timeframe - the Russian resolution extends the mandate until May 16, 2018, while the US version gives the mission 24 months since the adoption of the resolution.

The text, submitted by the US delegation, paves the way for measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows sanctions and the use of force, for attacks in which chemical weapons are used.

The Russian draft, in its turn, calls for revision of the mission’s earlier conclusions, because, in Moscow’s view, the investigation did not correspond to international standards. It also tasks the JIM with sending its investigators as soon as possible to the Shayrat airbase and to the site of the suspected chemical attack in Syria’s Khan Shaykhun on April 4.

The mandate of the investigative panel expires on November 17. Last week Russia vetoed the US draft resolution on extending the JIM mandate till November 2018 and called for waiting for the publication of the report. Two days later, the report was submitted to the UN Security Council. On Tuesday, Russia forwarded to the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly its preliminary evaluation of the investigators’ findings, saying that they were "amateurish" based on "a layman’s methodology."

Inspections in Khan Shaykhun and Shayrat

Russia’s draft resolution expresses regret by the mission’s failure to visit the site of the purported Khan Shaykhun attack and did not take samples while visiting the Shayrat air base, described by Western officials and media as a starting point for the attack.

Moscow also calls for a full-fledged investigation with the use of all possible techniques to prove that sarin used in Khan Shaykhun was indeed stored at Shayrat prior to the attack. It also calls on UN and OPCW investigators to act according to standards set by the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The resolution also demands that the conflict sides in Syria immediately provide full and safe access to Khan Shaykhun and adjacent districts.

If the document is adopted, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu will have 20 days to prepare joint recommendations on possible additional measures to boost the JIM. The UN Security Council will have five days to reply to the initiative.

Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Mikhail Ulyanov said on Tuesday the aim of Russia’s initiative was "to lay down clear rules of the game." According to the Russian diplomat, Moscow favors extending the mission’s mandate, but is "should start really working, not the way [it is operating] now."

Full support to the mission

Meanwhile, the US draft resolution expresses full support to the mission and deep concern about the mission’s findings. It says that the JIM conclusions are based on serious and trustworthy evidence.

The documents contains a provision allowing the UN Security Council to apply measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, allowing the use of force if more chemical attacks take place in Syria. The document also stresses that the government and other parties to the Syrian conflict must refrain from using, developing, obtaining or storing chemical weapons.