UN extends Syria gas attacks probe

The UN Security Council on Thursday (November 17th) unanimously decided to extend for another year the mandate of a panel tasked with investigating chemical attacks in Syria and identifying those responsible, AFP reported.

Backed by Russia, the council adopted a US-drafted resolution to prolong the joint investigation by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) until November 2017.

The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) has established that Syrian regime forces carried out three chlorine gas attacks on villages in 2014 and 2015. It also found the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) in Syria used mustard gas as a weapon in August 2015.

The resolution tasks the panel with identifying the "perpetrators, organisers, sponsors" of attacks including among groups associated with ISIL or al-Qaeda, and states that all "individuals, entities, groups or governments responsible for any use of chemical weapons must be held accountable".

Syria signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 2013 and agreed to give up its chemical stockpile under pressure from Russia.

At a meeting in The Hague last week, the OPCW's executive body condemned Syria for its use of chemical weapons, the first-ever condemnation of a state-party to the CWC.

Set up by the UN Security Council in August 2015, the JIM was due to shut down on Friday unless its mandate was renewed.

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