Russia has rejected France’s proposal at a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting that called for the launch of an independent investigation over an alleged chemical attack that struck the former rebel-held town of Douma in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta.
The rejection on Tuesday came during the sixth UNSC emergency meeting on Syria since the suspected chemical attack claimed the lives of at least 85 people on April 7, according to medical personnel.
The alleged attack was met with “triple assaults” by the US, France and the UK, through coordinated strikes on three presumed chemical facilities run the government.
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, said the idea of establishing a mechanism to determine responsibility for the use of chemical weapons is “futile” since Washington and its allies already identified who the “culprits” are, referencing the US-led attack on Syria.
Russia had called for the latest UNSC meeting to discuss the humanitarian situation in Raqqa, which has been under the Syrian Democratic Forces’ control since they reclaimed it from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) last year.
Nebenzia laid blame on the US and members of its coalition fighting ISIL in the region for the destruction of Raqqa.
But amid rising tension, Kelley Currie, deputy US ambassador for economic and social affairs, described Russia’s call as an attempt to deter focus away from the “atrocities” committed by the Syrian government.
Both Russia and its ally, President Bashar al-Assad‘s government, have denied using chemical weapons in their war against armed opposition groups in Syria.
Although a UN security team was able to access and visit Douma on Tuesday, a chemical weapons fact-finding mission scheduled to probe the site of the alleged attack is still awaiting entry.
According to a UN source who spoke to Reuters News Agency, inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) who arrived in Syria some days ago have postponed their entry to the site as a result of reported gunfire.
The delay comes a day after Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari told UNSC members that the OPCW would begin probing the alleged poison gas attack on Wednesday.
Nebenzia also warned that the West’s military actions have set aside the possibility of a political solution to Syria’s war, not in its eighth year.
“Before the air strikes, we noted the readiness of the Syrian government to participate in the Geneva negotiations,” Nebenzia said.
“Now, these efforts have been set back considerably.”
His remarks came as French ambassador Francois Delattre and British ambassador Karen Pierce urged the council to restart UN-brokered peace talks.