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  • Rory O'Keeffe

Russia uses vetoes to end investigations into Syrian chemical weapons use

Russia has used its veto at the UN Security Council for the tenth time in the almost seven years of the Syrian civil war, once again to refuse to extend the working mandate of the body set up to investigate chemical weapons attacks in the war.

The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) has found that the Assad regime has several times used chemical weapons, including most recently in its 4 April attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, in which more than 80 people were killed with Sarin gas.

Its mandate expires today, and the reason the vote was so close to that deadline is that Russia has already used its veto on 25 October to prevent the mandate being extended. At that point, it promised to review its decision. Unsurprisingly, it decided again to veto the mandate extension, which received 11 votes in favour (any proposal needs at least nine) two abstentions (China and Egypt) and two votes against (the other was from Bolivia, but Russia is one of only five states with a veto).

JIM was a joint body by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Since it was set up in 2015, it has documented several uses of chlorine by the Assad regime, as well as the Sarin attack on 4 April.

As a result, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: ‘We need a robust, professional mechanism that will help to prevent the proliferation of the threat of chemical terrorism in the region and you need a puppet-like structure to manipulate public opinion.’

Japan has put forward a proposal that its mandate can be extended for one month, but it is hard to see how this can be organised as it is unclear when it can even be voted on

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