UN Security Council Faces Rival Plans for Renewing Syria Chemical Weapons Inquiry

The United Nations Security Council is set to vote Thursday on rival U.S. and Russian proposals for extending the mandate of a body set up to investigate chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Authorization for the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) will expire at the end of the day unless it is renewed.

The U.S. mission to the U.N. called for a vote on its proposal, which like the Russian plan would extend the JIM for one year. The U.S. text calls for JIM’s experts to continue their work “in a manner they deem appropriate.”

“The United States hopes the Security Council will stand united in the face of chemical weapons use against civilians and extend the work of this critical group,” the U.S. mission said. “Not doing so would only give consent to such atrocities while tragically failing the Syrian people who have suffered from these despicable acts.”

The group began its work two years ago and has issued several reports finding the Syrian government responsible for using chemical weapons, including in a sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April.

Russia has been sharply critical of those conclusions, and its proposal features a call for the JIM to visit Khan Sheikhoun and re-evaluate its findings about what happened there.

“It is important that the JIM is renewed but on an updated mandate because the systemic errors that we saw with the recent report should be corrected and that’s the aim of our resolution,” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.

He added that the prospect of letting the mandate expire “may send a bad signal, but the way the investigation has been conducted sends an even worse signal.”

The dynamics of the Security Council could result in neither renewal plan being approved.

The United States and Russia are among the five permanent members of the council that have veto power, and diplomats say there is little support for the Russian plan.

Russia has used its veto nine times to block resolutions targeting its Syrian ally since the current conflict began in 2011.

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