DAMASCUS, SYRIA (12:00 P.M.) – The Russian Federation has vetoed a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) motion, filed by the United States, that would sanction a UN probe into the alleged use of chemical weapons during the Syrian Civil War on Tuesday. The Russian envoy cited a lack of clear information on the allegations as its reason for the veto.
The US-made document received a negative vote from both Russia and the temporary UNSC member state of Bolivia, while China and temporary member Kazakhstan both abstained from voting. According to UN regulations, a no vote by a permanent Security Council member such as Russia counts as a veto.
The UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) is currently still reviewing evidence about the alleged use of chemical weapons that is said to have taken place in Khan Shaykhun on April 4. The Russian delegation to the Security Council declared that the Council should await the JIM’s findings about the events that transpired on that day before voting should take place.
The Khan Shaykun incident occurred in the Idlib Governorate of Syria on April 4, 2017. After a bombing raid on Al-Nusra (now known as Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham or HTS) holdouts near the town of Khan Shaykun, chemical nerve agents were reported to have been released into the air, resulting in the death of at least 86 people. Rebel groups and Western governments were quick to blame the chemical gases on the Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad, claiming that the Syrian Air Force had used chemical weapons during the attack, which is forbidden by international law.
However, none of the accusations regarding the attack were ever backed up by evidence. Neither the Al-Nusra Front nor any of the anti-Damascus media outlets could provide proof, necessitating a UN investigation that is still ongoing.
Russian UNSC envoy Vasily Nebenzya referred to the vote as a “a directed performance” by the United States, in which the Americans pushed the vote through despite Russian calls to await the results of the Joint Investigative Mechanism. Nebenzya also stated he was “amused at how some delegations had read their prepared statements condemning the use of other countries’ veto power” even before the vote took place and thus before Russia even used its veto power.
The Russian envoy regretted that the US had decided to take “the course of confrontation and split within the Security Council,” and reiterated that Russia will consider again once the JIM findings have been published.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a similar statement, stating that the US insistence on voting before any research has been finished is a strange move.
“It is necessary to act in accordance with an established practice, when a UN structure’s report is first studied, and then a question on a mandate’s prolongation is discussed,” read the ministry statement.