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Syria toxic gas inquiry to end after Russia again blocks UN renewal

Syria toxic gas inquiry to end after Russia again blocks UN renewal
November 18, 2017

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - An international investigation into who is to blame for chemical weapons attacks in Syria will end after Russia blocked for the third time in a month attempts at the United Nations to renew the inquiry, which Moscow has slammed as flawed.

In the past two years, the joint U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inquiry has found the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in an April 4 attack and has also several times used chlorine as a weapon. It blamed Islamic State militants for using mustard gas.

Russia vetoed on Friday a Japanese-drafted U.N. Security Council resolution to extend the inquiry for one month. It was an eleventh-hour bid to buy more time for negotiations after Russia blocked U.S.-drafted resolutions on Thursday and Oct. 24 to renew the investigation, which the council created in 2015.

Syrian ally Russia has cast 11 vetoes on possible Security Council action on Syria since the country’s civil war began in 2011. The Japanese draft received 12 votes in favour on Friday, while China abstained and Bolivia joined Russia to vote no.

After Friday’s vote, the council moved to closed-door discussions at the request of Sweden’s U.N. Ambassador Olof Skoog to “ensure we are absolutely convinced we have exhausted every avenue, every effort” to try and renew the investigation.