The US resolution was supported by 11 members of the Council. Apart from Russia, Bolivia also opposed the resolution, while China and Egypt abstained from voting.
Russia withdrew its own rival draft resolution on the inquiry renewal shortly before the UN Security Council vote on the US one, but later backed Bolivia’s proposal to put it back to a vote.
The Russia-sponsored draft was subsequently voted down as well, failing to gain enough support among the Security Council members.
The Russian resolution was backed by four Security Council members, while seven rejected the draft and another seven abstained from voting.
The document was supported by co-sponsors Russia and China, as well as Kazakhstan and Bolivia. The US, France, the UK, Sweden, Ukraine, Italy and Uruguay voted against the draft.
Following the vote on the Russian draft, Nebenzia said he was disappointed with the outcome, as the proposal was “aimed at the extension and qualitative improvement of the JIM.”
Criticizing the US-sponsored draft, Nebenzya said that the only goal behind the US resolution was to “question the role of Russia in the process of Syrian political settlement.”
“There was nothing balanced in the US draft,” Nebenzya said.
The Russian ambassador further noted that the genuine goal of the US draft was outlined by the UK Ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, before the vote.
“The UK Ambassador said Russia has no place in the political process in Syria. Here it is,” Nebenzia said.
Nebenzia rejected allegations brought by Hailey that employees of the Russian mission at the UN ignored the calls of their American colleagues for the past week and that he was also “unavailable” when his US counterpart personally phoned him.
“Our experts got in touch [with the US side] as many times as they were contacted. It is not true,” Nebenzia said.
China said that while it would like the JIM to proceed with its probe, it must improve its working methods and procedures.
Commenting on China's decision to abstain in the vote on the US proposal, China’s Deputy Permanent Representative Ambassador, Wu Haitao, noted that while the US draft included “certain positive proposals” it failed to “fully answer the relevant concerns of some UNSC members.”
Before the vote, on Tuesday, Russian UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya expressed his support for the idea of extending the UN-OPCW mission mandate. However, he stressed that this mandate should be “updated” to correct the “systemic flaws” affecting the work of the current investigative mission. He added that this was the goal of Russia’s draft resolution.
Russia’s decision to veto the resolution provoked an angry reaction from the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley. She accused Moscow of “killing” the resolution, which had received backing from most members of the UN Security Council, and of “undermining” the UN’s ability to prevent chemical attacks in the future.
Earlier, Russia repeatedly criticized the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) that was conducting a probe into chemical attacks in Syria under the UNSC mandate. The Russian OPCW envoy, Alexander Shulgin, said a week ago that the investigation in fact is particularly “skewed” towards one theory behind the chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province that took place in April.
He also said that the inquiry fails “basic standards” of an investigation and ignores any information that would cast doubt on Damascus’s involvement in the April incident.
“We are of the view that the JIM report, the seventh report, has been established by a flagrant disregard of [the] basic higher standards of the Chemical Convention, UN Security Council resolutions and previous decisions by the ECE executive council,” Shulgin said.
Later in November, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the probe into April Khan Shaykhun’s chemical incident of disregarding the Convention’s guidelines and of “dilettantism.” In response, the head of the JIM, Edmond Mulet, accused Moscow of attempts to protect the Syrian government.
The ministry firmly rejected Mulet’s allegations, stating, the official was only trying to whitewash his own reputation, shaken by the improper investigation of the Khan Shaykhun chemical incident. The JIM also ignored Moscow’s concerns over the standard of its report, backed with figures and facts.
Russia has repeatedly questioned the findings of the probe, pointing that the incident might have been the result of an explosion at a warehouse containing chemical agents or a false flag operation by rebels. Moscow is criticizing the OPCW investigators for failing to examine the site of the attack and instead relying on questionable testimonies from unidentified persons. The US-led coalition pinned the blame on the Syrian government immediately after the attack, and launched an airstrike at the Syrian Shayrat airbase, from which it claimed the chemical attack had been launched.
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