Russia presents UN measure to rein in chemical weapons watchdog

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


Russia on Thursday presented a draft resolution to the Security Council accusing the UN's chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW, of politicization just weeks before a new probe begins of chemical attacks in Syria.

The draft text, seen by AFP, states that the Council -- where Russia holds veto power -- is the only international body that can impose measures on countries that violate the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The proposed resolution is backed by China, diplomats said.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) agreed in June to set up a mechanism that would identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks, a move strongly opposed by Russia and Syria.

The proposed resolution notes "with concern the continuing politicization of the work of the OPCW and growing deviation from the established practice of taking consensus-based decisions."

It calls on state parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention to "cooperate with each other and seek to restore the spirit of consensus in the OPCW," which suggests Russia's view must be taken into account.

OPCW chief Fernando Arias said Tuesday that the new investigation of chemical attacks in Syria would begin in the coming weeks.

Western countries are calling on the team to start work on identifying the culprits behind a deadly attack in the Syrian town of Douma in April 2018.

The OPCW said in a report that chlorine was likely used in the attack that killed more than 40 people, but Russia and Syria have rejected those findings.

The report did not apportion blame as it was not in the watchdog's mandate at the time.

The West pushed through the new blaming powers after OPCW reports confirmed chemical weapons use in Syria, as well as a nerve agent attack on Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal in the British city of Salisbury in March 2018.

The United States, Britain and France launched a one-off missile strike on Syria in April last year in response to the use of chemical weapons in Douma.

In 2015, Russia and the United States created the OPCW-UN joint investigative mechanism (JIM) to identify those responsible for chemical attacks in Syria.

But in late 2017, Russia vetoed a bid to renew the mandate of the JIM after it blamed the Syrian government for chlorine attacks and for using sarin in a deadly assault on the town of Khan Sheikhun that same year.

Russia has used its veto 12 times at the council to shield its Syrian ally from international action.