Ten non-permanent Security Council countries have circulated a compromise resolution demanding a full investigation of the suspected chemical attack in Syria in a move designed to avoid a clash with Russia.
The new text – the third now before the council on investigating the apparent gas attack – was presented ahead of a closed-door meeting of the 15-member council on Syria on Thursday evening.
Russia said the text was unacceptable and proposed a rival draft that does not include specific demands that the Syrian government cooperate with an investigation.
The draft by the non-permanent members is based on the first one, but drops demands that Syria hand over information on its military operations on the day of the strike, replacing them with language from a previous resolution urging cooperation on chemical weapons investigations, diplomats said.
It remained unclear if Russia or the other four permanent council members would back the compromise presented as the United States was weighing military options in Syria.
“UN Security Council will no longer vote on the [resolution] on Syria this evening. Consultations among council members are ongoing,” British diplomat Stephen Hickey posted on Twitter.
At least 86 people – including 27 children – died in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province on Tuesday, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Results from post-mortems performed on victims point to exposure to the deadly sarin nerve agent, according to Turkish health officials.
“There are efforts to find a way forward that might be a compromise,” Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog told reporters.
“We are going to try to make sure we have a good discussion before there are any votes.”
Russia has rejected the proposed Western-backed resolution as “categorically unacceptable”.
The Russian text calls for an investigation but requests that the council approve the makeup of the team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) dispatched to Idlib, according to the draft seen by AFP.
In February, Syrian ally Russia, backed by China, cast its seventh veto to protect Bashar al-Assad’s government from council action, blocking a bid by Western powers to impose sanctions over accusations of chemical weapons attacks. China has vetoed six resolutions on Syria.
A Security Council resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the United States, Britain, France, Russia or China to pass.
China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi said on Thursday he hopes the Security Council can reach consensus on a resolution condemning the reported use of chemical weapons.