MESOP CONTRADICTIONS : PUTIN & INVESTIGATIONS – Russia Blocks Further Investigation of Assad Regime’s Chemical Attacks

28 Oct 2016 – Russia has blocked further UN investigation of the Assad regime’s chemical attacks in Syria, saying that Damascus should carry out the inquiry.After years of being unable to cast any blames for the attacks, a UN team has found since August that the regime was responsible for three attacks carried out in northwest Syria.Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told a closed-door session of the UN Security Council on Thursday, “The conclusions of the JIM [Joint Investigative Mechanism] are not definitive, have no legally binding force and cannot serve as accusatory conclusions for taking legal decision.”

France, Britain, and the US hoped to persuade Russia to agree to a 12-month extension of the investigation’s mandate, which expires on October 31.Insisting that the latest report of the team from the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is “full of contradictions and therefore, unconvincing”, Churkin said, “Damascus should carry out a comprehensive national investigation on chemical incidents confirmed by the JIM.”

The Ambassador also tried to divert attention away from the regime, “We want to have a much stronger mechanism, which would also be looking at the terrorist chemical threat,” adding that Russia wants any mandate to include attacks beyond Syria.

France’s Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters before the meeting: Those responsible for using chemical weapons must be sanctioned. If the Security Council is not able to unite on the proliferation and the use of weapons of mass destruction in the 21st Century, frankly, what is the use of the Security Council?

UN investigations began after the Assad regime’s use of sarin nerve agent on areas near Damascus in August 2013, killing more than 1,400 people. However, the Security Council guidelines prevented any assignation of blame. The UN-OPCW investigation of nine later attacks has been able to conclude responsibility. Its third report, submitted in August, found the regime responsible for two chlorine attacks in Idlib Province — on Talmenes on April 21, 2014 and Sarmin on March 16, 2015. It also said Islamic State militants had used sulfur mustard gas.

The fourth report, submitted last Friday, said regime forces used helicopters to drop barrel bombs of chlorine gas on Qmenas in Idlib Province in March 2015. The helicopters flew from two bases where the 253 and 255 squadrons, belonging to the 63rd helicopter brigade, were based.  See Syria Feature: UN Finds Regime Guilty of 3rd Chemical Attack