UN Security Council votes on rival Russian, US probes into Syrian attack | News | DW | 11.04.2018
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UN Security Council votes on rival Russian, US probes into Syrian attack

Security Council member states have failed to agree on a plan to probe a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria. The US has threatened a "forceful" response after dozens of civilians were killed in rebel-held Douma.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday knocked back two rival resolutions from the US and Russia proposing separate investigations into Saturday's alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria.

The impasse is the latest in a series of clashes between the US and Russia and follows a decision by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' (OPCW) to examine the site of the attack at the request of the Syrian government.

Read more: EU calls for international response after suspected chemical attack in Syria

Three draft resolutions:

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia put forward a proposal calling for a "transparent and honest" investigation by OPCW investigators. This was knocked back as it failed to garner enough votes for adoption.
  • Moscow also asked the Council to vote on a second draft text that would also set up an inquiry. The US and its allies already rejected that text when it was first presented in January.
  • The US resolution, which was vetoed by Russia on Tuesday, proposed establishing a new panel that would also work with OPCW investigators to investigate the attack and determine who was responsible for it. The failed resolution also condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria "in the strongest terms."

Read more: What does the chemical weapons watchdog OPCW do?

'We condemn the case'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to be skeptical of the Russian proposal, saying: "The evidence that chemical weapons were used there is very, very clear. As far as I am concerned, that can be checked over again, but it doesn't help us as we condemn the case."

Western leaders agreed to target those responsible for the chemical attack, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying the decision "will not target allies of the regime or attack anyone but rather attack the regime's chemical capabilities."

Syria's Foreign Ministry said it had extended an invitation to the OPCW to investigate the scene of the attack, which the organization later said it had accepted. "Syria is keen on cooperating with the OPCW to uncover the truth behind the allegations that some western sides have been advertising to justify their aggressive intentions," the ministry added.

Read more: US threatens retaliation against chemical weapons attacks in Syria

The chemical attack: On Sunday, the Syrian White Helmets rescue group wrote on Twitter that a helicopter had dropped a barrel bomb filled with chemicals on the rebel-held city of Douma late on Saturday, killing at least 40 people and injuring hundreds of others.

Trump's promise: US President Donald Trump on Monday vowed to "forcefully" respond to the alleged attack, telling reporters: "We have a lot of options militarily and we'll be letting you know pretty soon … probably after the fact." The White House said Trump has decided to cancel his first official trip to Latin America to focus on the US response.

Read more: 'America will not engage in a huge military entanglement'

Russian warning: Moscow's UN envoy Vasily Nebenzia urged the US to "refrain from the plans that you're currently developing," warning that Washington will "bear responsibility" for any "illegal military adventure."

Not the first time: Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons against civilians and combatants. Trump ordered airstrikes against a Syrian government airbase in April 2017 in retaliation to a previous chemical weapons attack. In November, Russia vetoed a joint UN-OPCW investigation into that attack after investigators said the Syrian government was responsible.

amp, law/rt (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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