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Syria: US-backed war crimes panel flagrant interference

22 December 2016 10:37

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Syria has denounced the formation of a UN panel to gather evidence on war crimes in the war-ravaged Arab state, terming the measure as a flagrant interference in his country’s domestic affairs.

Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Ja’afari told the UN General Assembly that the proposed panel would scupper all available chances to come up with a political solution to the six-year-old conflict.

The General Assembly adopted the resolution drafted by Lichtenstein and co-sponsored by such countries as the US, France, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are known for aiding militants in their bid to topple the Syrian government.

Ja’afari said the plan runs contrary to the campaign against terrorism, and only increases financial support for Takfiri militants wreaking havoc inside Syria.

According to the resolution, the panel will “assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes” in Syria.

Russia, China and Iran were among the countries that opposed the measure, coming the in wake of the Syrian government’s liberation of Aleppo.

On Wednesday, France and Britain were reported to be pushing the UN Security Council to ban the sale of helicopters to Syria and to impose the first sanctions over the use of chemical weapons in the war.

A draft resolution reportedly calls for asset freezes and travel bans against four Syrian officials and 10 entities including a Syrian research allegedly center tied to chemical weapons development.

A vote at the council is expected as early as next week but diplomats said the measure is certain to be vetoed by Russia.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said there must be “significant measures” to follow up on the findings of a UN panel that blamed some units of the Syrian army for toxic attacks against three villages in northern Syria in 2014 and 2015.

“We’ll be pursuing that with our council colleagues and circulating a draft shortly,” he told reporters.

Russia, however, has said that the report’s findings are “inconclusive” and not strong enough to warrant sanctions.

Under the proposed measure, the council would demand that all UN member-states “prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer” to the Syrian military and government of “any helicopters, or related materiel including spare parts.”

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is investigating more than 20 alleged cases of use of toxic chemicals in Syria since August.

Syria destroyed its chemical weapons within weeks of acceding to the UN Chemical Weapons convention in October 2014 but gas attacks on civilians and government troops have never stopped.

The OPCW confirmed later that Damascus had surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons to a joint mission led by the organization and the UN following a chemical attack in Ghouta outside the Syrian capital the same year.

Last December, Ahmed al-Gaddafi al-Qahsi, a cousin of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, said the chemical weapons used in Ghouta were stolen from Libya and later smuggled into Syria via Turkey.

Damascus accuses Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia of supporting the foreign-backed militants, who have been ravaging the country since 2011.

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