Russia vetoes US-led effort to renew chemical weapons inquiry in Syria

Russia vetoes US-led effort to renew chemical weapons inquiry in Syria
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Russia moved on Thursday to block a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have renewed an investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, dealing a fatal blow to the U.S.-led effort. 

The vote to renew the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), the inquiry by the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, came as its mandate was set to expire at midnight on Thursday.

Russia agreed to the creation of the JIM in 2015 but has cast doubt on its findings, including the conclusion that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad launched chemical attacks on his own people. Assad is a key Russian ally in the Middle East.

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Russia's veto on Thursday amounted to its 10th veto on action in Syria since the country's civil war erupted in 2011. The move prompted widespread condemnation from other Security Council members, including Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyTillerson: Using American aid for 'some kind of personal gain [is] wrong' Conway and Haley get into heated feud: 'You'll say anything to get the vice-presidential nomination' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Former Ukraine envoy offers dramatic testimony MORE, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., who introduced the resolution to renew the inquiry.

"By using the veto to kill a mechanism in Syria that holds users of chemical weapons accountable, Russia proves they cannot be trusted or credible as we work towards a political solution in Syria," Haley wrote on Twitter Thursday after the vote.

Matthew Rycroft, the United Kingdom's U.N. representative, criticized the veto as an effort to shield Assad's government from accountability.

"Make no mistake, the JIM has succeeded. It is Russia that has failed," Rycroft said. 

The Security Council is made up of 15 countries, including five permanent members: the U.S., the U.K., France, China and Russia. For a resolution to pass, it must receive nine favorable votes from the panel's member states, including all of the permanent members.

Russia had initially introduced its own draft resolution to renew the inquiry. But that version drew little support among the council's members, and it was withdrawn on Thursday shortly before the vote.

Earlier on Thursday, President Trump took to Twitter to urge the Security Council to renew the inquiry's mandate, saying it was necessary "to ensure that Assad Regime does not commit mass murder with chemical weapons ever again."

The Syrian government agreed in 2013 to get rid of its stockpile of chemical weapons under a deal brokered by the U.S. and Russia. But the JIM has placed blame on the Syrian government for carrying out chemical attacks earlier this year.