THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Syria and its close ally Russia faced harsh criticism on Thursday at a meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons following an investigation that blamed Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime for a sarin attack that killed about 100 people in April.
At a closed-doors meeting of the chemical weapons watchdog’s executive council, U.S. representative Kenneth D. Ward said that Russia “continues to deny the truth and, instead, collaborates with the Assad regime in a deplorable attempt to discredit” the joint U.N.-OPCW investigation.
The text of Ward’s statement was posted on the OPCW website.
Russia has denounced the results of the investigation into the Khan Sheikhoun attack and vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution to renew the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, known as the JIM, which expires this month.
The OPCW has a team called Fact Finding Mission, which investigates whether chemical weapons have been used in Syria. The JIM was set up by the Security Council to apportion blame for such attacks.
Britain’s representative to the OPCW, Peter Wilson, said the U.N. Security Council should renew the JIM’s mandate.
“No ifs, no buts and no skimping on the mandate. It must be able to do its job,” Wilson said.
Ward, meanwhile, said the meeting in The Hague also had to send a strong message condemning the use of chemical weapons.
“Let me be clear — inaction by this council is unacceptable, as it would severely damage the credibility and effectiveness of this organization and the Chemical Weapons Convention, and undermine the broader framework of arms control and non-proliferation,” he said.
Statements issued by the OPCW’s Executive Council are normally adopted by consensus, but that appears unlikely, given Russia’s criticism of the investigation and its findings.
Western powers have expressed support for the JIM and the team’s report, which also concluded that the extremist Islamic State group was responsible for a mustard gas attack in Syria at Um Hosh, in Aleppo in September 2016.
In 2013, Syria accepted a Russian proposal to relinquish its chemical weapons stockpile and join the Chemical Weapons Convention. That averted a U.S. military strike in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.