UN security council extends investigation of chemical weapons use in Syria for one month

The UN investigative team last month reported that Syrian government forces had carried out at least two chemical attacks in 2014 and 2015

By: AFP | United Nations | Published:September 23, 2016 8:50 am
Chemicalweapons_759 Chlorine use as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention. (File)

The UN Security Council has given a panel investigating chemical weapons use in Syria another month to complete its work and determine who is responsible for chlorine attacks in the war, the United Nations has said.

The UN-led joint investigative mechanism (JIM) last month reported that Syrian government forces had carried out at least two chemical attacks in 2014 and 2015 and that Islamic State jihadists had used mustard gas as a weapon.

It was the first time an authoritative probe had pointed the finger of blame at President Bashar al-Assad’s forces after years of denial from Damascus.

The JIM will have until October 31 to finish the probe, the United Nations said in a note to correspondents. Its mandate had been due to expire on Friday.

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The United Nations yesterday said the extension was granted “under exceptional circumstances to allow for the completion of the mechanism’s fourth report.”

That report on the remaining three cases involving chlorine used in barrel-bombs is expected in the coming weeks.

France is pushing the Security Council to impose sanctions on Syria based on the findings of the report, but other diplomats have privately expressed concern that the probe could be shelved as part of US-Russian negotiations on Syria.

Russia has questioned the findings of the JIM, saying they were not conclusive enough to trigger sanctions.

Chlorine use as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013, under pressure from Russia, Assad’s ally.

The JIM is to report on chemical attacks in three towns: Zafr Zita, in Hama province, on April 28, 2014, and on two villages in Idlib: Qmenas on March 16, 2015 and Binnish on March 24, 2015.