The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Joint Investigative Mechanism, the body mandated to determine responsibility for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, until 18 November.
Through the unanimous adoption of resolution 2314 (2016), the 15-nation Council expressed its intention to consider a further extension before the two‑week extension expired and stressed the need for the full functioning of the Mechanism during that period, condemning again in the strongest terms the use of any toxic chemical as a weapon in Syria and expressing alarm that civilians continued to be killed and injured there because of such use.
Following the adoption, Security Council members, while expressing both support for the work of the Mechanism and concerns regarding recent allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, also debated the matter of the Mechanism’s scope and the nature of further extensions.
It was imperative to keep the Mechanism, as it was not only sufficient to determine whether attacks had occurred, but who had actually perpetrated them, stated Matthew Rycroft of the United Kingdom. Stressing that the Mechanism’s mandate should not include other States such as Iraq, he urged it remain focused on use of the toxic agents in Syria alone. There was a big difference between Syria on one hand, and Iraq and other countries on the other hand, he said, pointing out that only Syria had conducted chemical attacks on its own population.
Michele Sison of the United States also urged that the Mechanism remain focused on Syria where it had critical work to do. Recounting the aftermath of an alleged chlorine attack after a helicopter drop in Aleppo in which children and mothers died, she emphasized that the Joint Investigative Mechanism filled a huge gap in the international tool-box against chemical weapons. Attacks had been reduced since it was created.
However, Vitaly Churkin of the Russian Federation, underscoring the danger of terrorist groups using chemical weapons, said that the threat could only be dealt with if the Mechanism were given a greater regional scope. The cooperation of regional countries was needed for that purpose. Furthermore, during the two‑week extension, improvement of the Mechanism could be considered and its drawbacks removed. It was crucial that the Mechanism not be politicized or used as a tool to criticize the Government of Syria, but utilized for the objective original purposes for which it had been created.
Shen Bo of China emphasized the importance for the Mechanism to perform its functions in an objective and impartial manner while respecting the sovereignty of all countries concerned. He urged that the Council remain united in opposing the use of chemical weapons in Syria and that all stakeholders support a political solution to the conflict there.
Takeshi Akahori of Japan called for a further extension of the Mechanism following the period of the extension adopted today. Pointing to the new allegations which had been made recently, he stressed that those reports showed the necessity of the Mechanism continuing its work.
Volodymyr Yelchenko of Ukraine also concurred with the continuing need for the Mechanism as allegations of the use of chemical weapons continued. The end of any such use must be ensured and any violators held accountable.
The last report of the Mechanism had left no room for doubt, said François Delattre of France: the Syrian army and Da’esh had attacked the Syrian population on at least four different occasions. The Security Council had to ensure that the Mechanism continued to function. If the Security Council was not in the position to step up to its responsibility, its very credibility was at stake. All Council members had to put aside any difference regarding the conflict in Syria itself. Divisions could not be an option for its Members.
The meeting began at 12:45 p.m. and ended at 1:08 p.m.
The full text of resolution 2314 (2016) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling its resolutions 2235 (2015), 2209 (2015) and 2118 (2013),
“Noting that additional allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria are being investigated by the Fact-Finding Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,
“Condemning again in the strongest terms any use of any toxic chemical as a weapon in the Syrian Arab Republic and expressing alarm that civilians continue to be killed and injured by toxic chemicals as weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic,
“Reaffirming that the use of chemical weapons constitutes a serious violation of international law and reiterating that those individuals, entities, groups or governments responsible for any use of chemical weapons must be held accountable,
“1. Decides to renew the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, as set out in resolution 2235 (2015), until 18 November 2016, and expresses its intention to consider a further extension before the expiration of this mandate;
“2. Reaffirms paragraphs 1-4, 6-9, 12 and 15 of resolution 2235 (2015), and stresses the need for the full functioning of the Joint Investigative Mechanism during this period;
“3. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”