The UN Security Council is likely to vote next week on a draft resolution that would slap sanctions on the Assad regime over the use of chemical weapons, but Russia is almost certain to veto the measure, a senior diplomat said on Thursday.
Britain, France and the United States are pushing for a ban on the sale of helicopters to the Assad regime and sanctions on 11 Syrians and 10 entities linked to chemical attacks in Syria.
A joint investigation by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has concluded that the Assad regime forces carried out chemical attacks against three villages in 2014 and 2015.
“This is the significant response that the Security Council committed to do in the event of proven use of CW in Syria,” said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The US, UK and France are very clear that this is an issue of principle,” the diplomat said, adding that Russia’s ambassador said at a meeting last week that Moscow would block the measure.
France and Britain presented drafts on imposing sanctions on Syria in December, but held off on action to give the new US administration time to study it.
The latest draft would impose a global travel ban and assets freeze on 11 Assad regime officials, mostly military officials including the head of Syrian air force intelligence and the commander of air operations in areas where attacks occurred.
These commanders are said to have been involved in attacks by helicopters that dropped chlorine barrel-bombs on the villages of Qmenas, Talmenes and Sarmin in Idlib province.
On Tuesday, Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, said that the organization presented evidence on the use of chemical weapons in the chemical attack on eastern Ghouta in August 2013 as well as evidence confirming the Assad regime was responsible for the attack that claimed the lives hundreds of civilians.
In a report released on February 13, HRW confirmed that the Assad regime forces conducted coordinated chemical attacks in opposition-controlled parts of Aleppo during the final month of the battle for the city.
The human rights watchdog said it had documented Assad regime helicopters dropping chlorine in residential areas on at least eight occasions between November 17 and December 13, 2016.
The attacks killed at least nine civilians, including four children, and injured around 200, HRW added.
Ole Solvang, deputy emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, said in an interview that the way chemical attacks moved in step with the frontline showed they were an integral part of the offensive.
“This is a strong indication that these chlorine attacks were coordinated with the overall military strategy for retaking Aleppo, not the work of a few rogue elements,” Solvang added. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)