Russia on Tuesday vetoed a US-sponsored resolution that would extend the work of inspectors seeking to determine who is responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria, accusing the US of calling the vote “to show up and dishonor Russia.”
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia tried unsuccessfully to postpone the vote until next month — after the joint body comprising investigators from the UN and the chemical weapons watchdog issues a report today on blame for the April 4 chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 90 people.
Russia’s call for a delay needed nine “yes” votes in the Security Council, but got only four — Russia, China, Bolivia and Kazakhstan — and it was opposed by eight members with three abstentions.
The US-backed resolution was then put to a vote and received 11 “yes” votes, two “no” votes from Russia and Bolivia, and two abstentions by China and Kazakhstan.
Nebenzia said Russia, a close ally of Syria, has criticized the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM).
Last year, JIM inspectors determined that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government was behind at least three attacks involving chlorine gas — which Russia strongly disputed — and the Islamic State militant group was responsible for at least one involving mustard gas, which Moscow supported.
Nebenzia sharply criticized US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, saying she pressed for Tuesday’s vote before the JIM report knowing that Russia would veto and accused her of breaking the unity of the UN Security Council, which is important to most members.
“But what’s important for you is something else,” he said, directing his remarks to Haley. “You need to show up Russia and show that Russia is guilty of not extending the JIM. In fact, you’re the one who’s begging for confrontation.”
Nebenzia said that Russia does not want the JIM terminated.
“Don’t try to create the impression that the JIM will be a dead letter unless we adopt this resolution today,” Nebenzia said before the vote. “Maybe you’re trying to do this intentionally to prove to the world that Russia wants to close down the JIM at any cost. That is not true. We’re ready to return to extending the JIM after the publication of the report and after we discuss it.”
When the council discusses an extension, he said, Russia will insist on amending the JIM mandate, which does not expire until Nov. 17, to ensure “the professionalism and impartiality that we want to see.”
French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre, the current president of the Security Council, also called on all council members to come together to allow the JIM mandate’s renewal before it expires.
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