US: Russia stymied effort to end Syria chemical attacks

Russia has sent the United Nations Security Council “back to square one” in its effort to end chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the U.S. charged Monday.

The accusation comes one day after the most recent report of chemical weapons allegedly being used by Syrian regime forces. There have been at least three such cases in 2018, and Russia has on three separate occasions used its veto power to nix a UN mechanism meant to assign culpability for chemical attacks.

“It’s a true tragedy that Russia has sent us back to square one in the effort to end chemical weapons use in Syria,” Nikki Haley, the American UN envoy, told the council as Washington sought to advance a statement condemning the reported chemical attacks. "While this Council has not yet been able to act to provide real accountability for chemical weapons use in Syria, the United States will not give up on the responsibility to do so"

The U.S.-drafted statement is still being discussed within the council, and Russia called for "due investigation" of any alleged chemical attacks.

Vasily Nebenzya, Russia's UN representative, said Moscow would lend its support to the joint statement, but "not in the way" it has been drawn up by Washington.

"The aim of this statement is clear. It is to implicate the government of Syria," Nebenzya said.

Russia is the Syrian regime's foremost ally in the international body, regularly using its status as a permanent member on the Security Council to provide Damascus with diplomatic cover.

Emphasizing the importance of ending the use of chemical weapons in Syria, French UN ambassador Francois Delattre said their repeated use "is a challenge to the very authority of the Security Council".

"The stakes cannot be higher and yes the Security Council has to finally take up its responsibilities on this existential matter," he told reporters.