US pushing UN resolution to investigate alleged Syria chemical weapon attacks

Posted on: April 9th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is urging the Security Council to adopt a resolution that condemns the reported chemical weapons attack in Syria over the weekend and would re-establish a U.N. investigative body to determine whether chemical weapons were used.

A draft of the resolution obtained by ABC News “condemns in the strongest terms the continued use of chemical weapons” in Syria – although it does not blame the Assad regime for the attack, instead establishing a U.N. “Independent Mechanism of Investigation” to try to determine whether chemical weapons were used and possibly who is responsible.

There was such a body, called the Joint Investigative Mechanism, or JIM, that reported last fall that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad’s forces were responsible for a sarin gas attack in April 2017 that killed approximately 100 civilians and led to U.S. airstrikes on a Syrian military base. But Russia – Assad’s ally and military backer – has since ended the JIM by blocking an extension of its mandate on numerous occasions.

The Security Council will not be voting on the resolution Monday afternoon. Instead, the U.S. will begin circulating it and trying to negotiate with other Security Council members to pass it, a U.S. official said. The U.N. body will instead be briefed by the Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Thomas Markram and the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

It’s also not a new resolution, but one the U.S. has been trying to get passed for months now – updated with the news of this latest reported attack and modified with some of Russia’s previous demands as a sign that the U.S. is willing to negotiate on this, the official added.

The apparent chemical attack on Saturday killed dozens of civilians, targeting a rebel enclave outside Damascus called Douma that has been pulverized by Assad’s forces and his backers. U.S. intelligence is still assessing whether or not chemical weapons were used, a U.S. official said, but President Donald Trump has blamed “President Putin, Russia and Iran… for backing Animal Assad” in a tweet Sunday.

Ahead of a cabinet meeting Monday, he told reporters, “Nothing’s off the table,” including U.S. military actions, and his administration would make a decision in 24 to 48 hours.

But for the moment, his administration is using diplomatic engagement as it works to try to get to the bottom of what happened in Douma — and then decides what to do next, a State Department official told ABC News. They added that the U.N. Security Council is the focus right now, but pointed to other ongoing efforts, such as Trump’s phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron and acting Secretary of State John Sullivan’s call with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Sullivan and Johnson agreed that “this attack bore hallmarks of previous chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime,” according to a British Foreign Office spokesperson. Johnson also spoke to his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Monday as well, “underlin[ing] the importance of the UK, the US, and France remaining in close touch.”

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