Russia again vetoes bid to renew Syria gas attacks probe

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UNITED NATIONS (DNA) – Russia cast a second veto in as many days at the UN Security Council on Friday to block the renewal of a UN-led investigation to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. A draft resolution put forward by Japan would have extended the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) for 30 days to allow time for negotiations on a wider compromise. But Russia used its veto power to prevent adoption after 12 council members voted in favor of the measure. China abstained, while Bolivia voted no.

It was the 11th time that Russia has used its veto power to stop council action targeting its ally Syria.

After the vote, US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council: “Russia has no interest in finding ground with the rest of this council to save the JIM.”

“Russia will not agree to any mechanism that might shine a spotlight on the use of chemical weapons by its ally, the Syrian regime,” she said.

“It s as simple and shameful as that.”

The Japanese proposal came after Russia on Thursday vetoed a US-drafted resolution that would have allowed the expert investigators to continue their work for a year.

A separate Russian draft resolution that called for changes to the JIM failed to garner enough votes for adoption, with just four votes.

“Any extension of the JIM s mandate for us is possible only provided fundamental flaws in its work are rectified,” said Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.

He accused the JIM s leadership of having “disgraced itself with its fictitious investigation” of the sarin gas attack at the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun, saying the panel had “signed its name on baseless accusations against Syria.”

Russia has strongly criticized the JIM after its report blamed the Syrian air force for the assault that left scores dead.

The April 4 attack triggered global outrage as images of dying children were shown worldwide, prompting the United States to launch missile strikes on a Syrian air base days later.

Syria has denied using chemical weapons, with backing from Russia, its main ally.

After the veto, the council met behind closed doors at Sweden s request to try once more to find a way forward to save the panel.

Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog said council members must “make sure that we are absolutely convinced that we have exhausted every avenue, every effort before the mandate of the JIM expires tonight.”

The row over the fate of the chemical weapons inquiry came as the United Nations was preparing a new round of peace talks to open on November 28 in Geneva to try to end the six-year war.

The joint UN-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) panel was set up by Russia and the United States in 2015 and unanimously endorsed by the council, which renewed its mandate last year.

Previous reports by the JIM have found that Syrian government forces were responsible for chlorine attacks on three villages in 2014 and 2015, and that the Islamic State group used mustard gas in 2015.