THE United States, France and Britain have launched a new bid at the United Nations to investigate chemical weapons use in Syria that also aims to see a return to diplomacy.
Just hours after striking Syrian government chemical weapon sites, the three allies circulated a joint draft resolution at the UN security council that “demands” President Bashar al-Assad’s regime engage in UN-led peace talks “in good faith, constructively and without pre-conditions”.
As well as a reinvigoration of the stalled UN peace talks, the draft also calls for a broad investigation into Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, a ceasefire to be enforced, unimpeded deliveries of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations.
EU foreign ministers are expected to support the calls at a meeting of the Security Council this morning in Brussels.
The draft resolution signals the West’s bid to return to diplomacy following the one-night military operation against Syria’s chemical weapons programme.
The Security Council has been deadlocked since last November over establishing an investigation procedure to identify responsibility for chemical attacks – different to determining whether an attack has occurred.
At present, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is in Damascus to certify whether a chemical attack took place on April 7, but it has no other abilities.
In November, Russia used its veto three times to halt a previous UN-led inquiry that found Syrian forces had dropped sarin on the town of Khan Sheikhun in April last year. Under the new proposals, the OPCW would
be instructed to report within 30 days whether Mr Assad’s government has fully disclosed its chemical weapons stockpile.
French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, also called for urgent action to avoid a further humanitarian disaster by forestalling an expected Syrian assault on the last major opposition-held province of Idlib in north-eastern Syria. Le Drian called for the jihadist groups that dominate the area to be disarmed and for Russia to order Syria to hold back from further assaults. He said Russia “should join our efforts to promote a political process in Syria that would allow a way out of the crisis”.
Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, speaking on The Andrew Marr Show yesterday, said it would be “an extra” if the strikes led to Russia putting pressure on Mr Assad to
negotiate, but he said the strikes had been primarily designed to deter and degrade Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons.
Both Russia and Syria continued to denounce the strikes as an illegal act of aggression.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the West of “hooliganism” and demanded it “immediately end its actions against Syria and refrain from them in the future”.
“You are not only placing yourselves above international law, but you are trying to rewrite international law,” he said.
On Saturday, only three of the 15-member UN Security Council backed a Russian resolution denouncing the strikes as an illegal act of aggression.
Nikki Hayley, the US envoy to the UN, told the Security Council its forces were ready, “locked and loaded”, to mount further strikes if there were signs Mr Assad was again planning to use chemical weapons.
The narrowly targeted pre-dawn military operation on Saturday took aim at three alleged chemical weapons facilities.
The allies believe following the extensive consultation last week that they have a further set of targets established and a system of co-ordination in place that will prevent the delays that reduced the impact of Saturday morning’s strikes.
Source : HeraldScotland