US, Russia agree on Syria chemicals weapons draft

US, Russia agree on Syria chemicals weapons draft
The United States and Russia have reached agreement on a draft UN resolution aimed at identifying those behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
3 min read
06 August, 2015
The Syrian regime have been accused of countless gas attacks on civilian areas [Anadolu]

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday he had reached an agreement with his Russian counterpart that could see the UN set up a panel to identify those behind deadly chlorine gas attacks in Syria.

"We also talked about the UN resolution and indeed I believe reached an agreement that should try to see that resolution voted shortly, which would create a process of accountability which has been missing," Kerry said a day after talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Malaysia

The agreement will help perpetrators be brought to justice, two Security Council diplomats said on Wednesday.

The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions were private, has earlier stated that the final draft has been circulated to all 15 Security Council members.

They have until 2pm GMT on Thursday to raise objections, the diplomat said.

If there are no objections to the text, one diplomat said the resolution could be put to a vote as early as Friday.

While Russia and the US have failed to agree on a way to end the Syrian conflict, now in its fifth year, they did agree on eliminating its chemical weapons stockpile.

Washington has been pressing for the council to take action to ensure accountability for an increasing number of alleged chlorine attacks that have caused deaths and injuries.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said in June the council should look for the best way to ensure that people allegedly responsible for chlorine attacks are brought before a court.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the global chemical weapons watchdog, has a mandate to carry out fact-finding missions to determine whether there have been chemical attacks.


But neither the OPCW nor the UN have a mandate to determine responsibility for the use of chlorine or chemical weapons.

According to one council diplomat, the final draft asks UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in coordination with OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu, to submit to the Security Council within 20 days recommendations to establish an "OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism."

It says this investigative body will identify when they believe chemical weapons were used or likely to have been used in Syria.

US and Russian diplomats have been meeting at the UN on the text of the resolution and Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed the need to address the "possession and potential use of chemical weapons" by the Syrian regime on Wednesday, according to a senior US official.

Following a chemical weapon attack on a Damascus suburb that killed hundreds of civilians on 21 August 2013 a U.S.-Russian agreement led to a Security Council resolution the following month. It ordered the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, precursors, and the equipment to produce the deadly agents.

The Syrian regime's support for the resolution and decision to join the OPCW warded off possible US military strikes in the aftermath of the attack, which Damascus denied carrying out.

Syria's declared stockpile of 1,300 metric tons of chemicals has been destroyed, but the OPCW is still investigating outstanding questions about possible undeclared chemical weapons.

Chlorine is not a banned agent used in chemical weapons, like sarin or ricin. But it is toxic and its use in attacks in Syria started being reported last year.

In March, the Security Council approved a US-drafted resolution that condemns the use of toxic chemicals such as chlorine in Syria, and threatens further measures including sanctions in the case of violations.

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