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U.S., Russia To Push UN Measure On Chemical Attacks In Syria

The United States and Russia have reached agreement on a draft United Nations resolution aimed at identifying the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria so they can be brought to justice, diplomats said August 5.

A draft resolution has been circulated to all 15 UN Security Council members, the diplomats said, and If there are no objections to the text, the resolution could be put to a vote as early as August 7.

While Russia and the United States have failed to agree on a way to end the Syrian conflict, now in its fifth year, they did agree on eliminating its chemical weapons stockpile.

The United States has been pressing for the council to take action to ensure accountability for an increasing number of alleged chlorine attacks that have caused deaths and injuries.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said in June the council should look for the best way to ensure that people allegedly responsible for chlorine attacks are brought before a court.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a global chemical weapons watchdog, has a mandate to carry out fact-finding missions to determine whether there have been chemical attacks. But neither the OPCW nor the UN have a mandate to determine responsibility for the use of chlorine or chemical weapons.

The draft resolution asks UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in coordination with OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu, to establish an "OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism" charged with identifying individuals, groups, and governments who perpetrated the use of chemicals weapons, including chlorine, in Syria.

U.S. and Russian diplomats at the UN drafted the resolution and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed it at a meeting in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia August 5.

Following a chemical weapon attack on a Damascus suburb that killed hundreds of civilians on August 21, 2013, a U.S.-Russian agreement led to a Security Council resolution the following month ordering the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, precursors, and equipment for producing the deadly agents.

The Syrian government's support for the resolution and decision to join the OPCW warded off possible U.S. military strikes in the aftermath of the attack, which Damascus denied carrying out.

Syria's declared stockpile of 1,300 metric tons of chemicals has been destroyed, but the OPCW is still investigating outstanding questions about possible undeclared chemical weapons.

Chlorine is not a banned agent used in chemical weapons, like sarin or ricin. But it is toxic and its use in attacks in Syria started being reported last year.

In March, the Security Council approved a U.S.-drafted resolution that condemns the use of toxic chemicals such as chlorine in Syria, and threatens further measures including sanctions in the case of violations.

With reporting by AP and TASS
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