Syria chemical weapons: a new UN investigation to unprecedented powers

organe-enquete-devrait-deposer-premierThe United Nations Security Council approved the establishment of an international investigative body that will be authorized for the first time, to establish who is responsible for chemical attacks in Syria, disclosed a Thursday diplomat.

So far, the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were only mandated to investigate attacks without seeking to assign blame to anyone, be it the Syrian government or the rebels.

But thanks to a rare moment of agreement between the US and Russia over the Syrian conflict – now in its fifth year of armed combat -, this new investigative body will have the powers necessary to clarify certain gray areas the conflict.

The diplomat – who wishes to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak publicly about this issue – no member of the Security Council objected Thursday to send a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki -moon for the establishment of the UN joint investigation mechanism and the OPCW.

The letter, which The Associated Press obtained a copy, signed by the Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin and chairman of the Security Council authorizes, as recommended by Mr. Ban, the creation of an independent committee of three members assisted by a group of experts who will be free to move where he wants Syria to identify those responsible for the chemical attack.

The government of Bashar Assad denies having used chemical weapons, but the United States and other Western countries argue that Damascus is to blame, especially for explosive barrels containing chlorine and other toxic agents that have were dropped by helicopters. The opposition does not own any aircraft.

But reports suggest that the State Armed Islamic Group also made use of chemical weapons.

Last month, the Security Council unanimously approved a resolution allowing the establishment of this international body for a period of one year with the possibility to extend its mandate.

The High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Kim Won-soo agreed Wednesday that “access to the sites will be a major challenge”, especially in areas of the country controlled by the armed group Islamic state.

Mr. Kim said the investigative body will begin its work in a few weeks. One of the next steps will be to update a cooperation agreement with the Syrian government, but “I do not expect that to be problematic,” he has said.

The investigative body should submit its first report 90 days after the start of its mandate.

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