U.N. Security Council resolution targets chemical weapons use in Syria

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Story highlights

  • U.N. Security Council adopts resolution aimed at identifying those behind chemical attacks in Syria
  • Measure stops short of saying what action will be taken, if any, when culprits are identified
  • U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power says resolution sends "a clear and powerful message"

New York (CNN)The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Friday that will establish an investigative body to assess who is responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

The resolution calls for a "Joint Investigative Mechanism" to be created between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons emphasizing that "those individuals, entities, groups, or governments responsible for any use of chemicals as weapons, including chlorine or any other toxic chemical, must be held accountable," according to the resolution.
The OPCW had been previously commissioned by the Security Council to conduct fact-finding investigations into attacks, but not to reach decisive conclusions on who was behind the attacks.
    The resolution, however, stops short of saying what action will be taken, if any, when the entity responsible for the numerous deadly attacks is identified.
    Still, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said Friday that the measure sends a "clear and powerful message to all those involved in chemical attacks in Syria."
    "Imagine for a moment if we asked an investigative team to determine whether certain atrocities occurred such as rapes, tortures or executions, but did not ask that team to determine who was involved in such brutal acts," Power said.
    "That link is essential to eventual accountability and helping prevent future abuses from occurring. That is what the new U.N.-OPCW Joint Investigative Mission will do."
    Power said previous efforts at uncovering the attacks failed to empower investigators "to point the finger," which "compounded an already rampant sense of impunity in Syria."
    The U.S. and Russia had been at odds over placing blame for the attacks, with Russia expressing concern about penalizing the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad without identifying the culprits first.
    But Secretary of State John Kerry met this week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Doha, where the two specifically came to an agreement on the resolution.
    Kerry said the measure will "create a process of accountability which has been missing."
    Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said Friday that the failure to name culprits opened the door for "politicized statements ... clearly meant to be propaganda. It was necessary to eliminate this gap."
    Syria has denied using chemical weapons.
    Bashar Ja'afari, the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations, said Friday that his government has cooperated with the OPCW fact-finding mission.
    "We have many times drawn the attention of the council and warned the council of the danger of the use of chemical weapons in Syria by terrorist groups, some of which are affiliated with al Qaeda," Jaafari said.
    Kerry on Thursday delivered a fiery response to reports that the al-Assad regime used chlorine gas as part of an attack earlier this week in the Syrian town of Sarmin.
    In a statement, Kerry said the United States is "deeply disturbed" by the as-yet-unverified reports. He called for a quick investigation into the allegations, though the State Department declined to spell out any specific consequences should they be proven.
    The attack, alleged to have taken place on Monday, was first reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
    Qusai Zakarya, who survived a chemical weapons attack while living in a suburb of Damascus in August 2013, said he hoped the resolution will lead to accountability.
    Now living in the United States, Zakarya said he had been frustrated with what he called the inaction of the Security Council.
    "I'm hoping this decision will lead to justice," he said. "It's an important step towards accountability."