The credibility of the United Nations Security Council is at stake as it meets to discuss possible sanctions against Syria for the use of chemical weapons against civilians, the head of the French mission to the United Nations said on Friday. “If the Security Council is not able to unite on such a vital, literally, vital question of proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction against civilian population, then what?” said French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre.
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“What is at stake here frankly is the credibility of the Security Council,” he told reporters. Delattre said that beyond existing “clear evidence” that chemical weapons have been used in Syria against civilians, there are “converging indications that such weapons continue to be used.” “On the scale of the threats to peace and security, we are at 10 here,” Delattre said. “The ‘doing nothing’ attitude or the ‘talking only’ attitude are not an option confronted with such a threat.”
The draft resolution seeks to blacklist 11 Syrian military commanders and officials and 10 government and related entities involved in the development and production of chemical weapons. It calls for an asset freeze and travel ban for the individuals and entities across all UN member states.
Two diplomats told Reuters on Thursday it was likely that Russia, the largest international backer of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, would veto the text. US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said: “We’ve worked with the UK and France to make sure this resolution comes on board and then we’ll find out which countries have an excuse for chemical weapons and which ones are really going to say this is a problem.”
A joint inquiry by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found that Syrian government forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks and that Islamic State militants had used mustard gas, according to reports seen by Reuters last year. Assad’s government has denied its forces have used chemical weapons.
The UN vote could coincide with talks between representatives of Assad’s government and his opponents with UN mediator Staffan de Mistura, which started on Thursday in Geneva. Delattre said he saw no contradiction in raising the subject of sanctions on Syria as the Geneva talks were being held. The nearly six-year-long conflict in Syria has killed at least 300,000 people and displaced millions, according to groups that monitor the war.