UN expected to approve resolution to identify perpetrators of Syrian chemical weapon attacks

The U.N. Security Council is expected to unanimously approve a resolution Friday aimed at identifying those responsible for using chlorine and other chemical weapons in attacks in Syria that have killed and injured a growing number of civilians.

While Russia and the United States have failed to agree on a way to end the Syrian conflict, now in its fifth year, the have agreed on eliminating the country's chemical weapons.

The draft resolution fills a gap in assigning blame for chemical weapon attacks so the perpetrators can be brought to justice.

The Security Council is scheduled to vote at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT) Friday, just two days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reached agreement on the text. The 13 other council members had until Thursday morning to raise objections and none did.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the global chemical weapons watchdog, has a mandate to carry out fact-finding missions to determine whether chemical attacks occurred in Syria. But neither the organization nor the United Nations has a mandate to determine responsibility.

The final draft of the resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, asks U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in coordination with OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu, to submit to the council within 20 days recommendations to establish a joint investigative body.

That body would identify those responsible "or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons," in Syria.

In March, the council approved a U.S.-drafted resolution that threatens measures, including sanctions, over the use of toxic chemicals as weapons in Syria.

The United States has been pressing for the council to ensure accountability for the growing number of alleged chlorine attacks in Syria, many reportedly using barrel bombs dropped from helicopters.

The U.S. sponsored an informal Security Council meeting in April for council members to hear first-hand accounts of chemical weapons attacks. In early June, Syrian activists and doctors said chlorine had been increasingly used as a weapon. And in mid-July reports emerged that the Islamic State group, which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq, used projectile-delivered poison gas against Kurdish forces in both countries on several occasions in June.

Kerry told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Thursday that the resolution "will create a process of accountability which has been missing."

New Zealand's U.N. Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, a council member, said the resolution "will at least go some distance towards satisfying those who are concerned about the apparent impunity of people being able to use these weapons."

"How effective it will be, we'll have to wait and see," he said.

Following a chemical weapon attack on a Damascus suburb that killed hundreds of civilians in August 2013, the council ordered the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons program. Syria's declared stockpile of 1,300 metric tons of chemicals has been destroyed, but the OPCW is investigating possible undeclared chemical weapons.

Chlorine is not officially considered a warfare agent and was not among the chemicals declared by Syria, but its use as a weapon is illegal.


Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia contributed to this report