Russia questions evidence of Syria chemical attacks

Volunteers wear protective gear during a class of how to respond to a chemical attack, in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on September 15, 2013. (File photo: AFP)

The UN Security Council failed to agree Tuesday on whether Syria merited sanctions over the use of chemical weapons, with Russia questioning the evidence from an independent commission that found government forces were behind at least two such attacks.

Council members met to discuss the findings of an international team of inspectors that determined that both the Syrian government and ISIS militants were responsible for chemical attacks carried out in 2014 and 2015.

But Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose country is a close ally of the Syrian government, said it was too early to consider implementing a September 2013 council resolution authorizing sanctions that can be militarily enforced for any use of chemical weapons in Syria.

“Clearly there is a smoking gun. We know that chlorine most likely has been used - that was already the finding of the fact finding mission before - but there are no fingerprints on the gun,” Churkin said following the closed-door session.

“There is nobody to sanction in the report which has been issued,” he said. “It contains no names, it contains no specifics. ... If we are to be professional, we need to question all the conclusions.”

Churkin said, however, that he was pleased the report had confirmed the use of chemical weapons by ISIS.

Heading into the meeting, US Ambassador Samantha Power called the report “a landmark” and said she expected a Security Council resolution “soon.”

“It is the first official independent confirmation of what many of us ... have presented substantial evidence of for a long time, and that is a pattern of chemical weapons use by the Syrian regime,” Power said. “It is incumbent on the council to act swiftly to show ... we were serious about there being meaningful accountability.”

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:52 - GMT 06:52