GENEVA — The United States’ top envoy for Syria rejected Thursday findings by U.N.-backed investigators that deadly airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition early this year may amount to a war crime.
Ambassador James Jeffrey said the coalition takes “extreme care in every military operation we do.”
The U.S.-led coalition says more than 1,250 civilians were killed in 34,038 airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria during a more than four-year period.
His comments came a day after investigators working for the U.N.'s top human rights body suggested that coalition airstrikes on Jan. 3 near the town of as-Safa, along the Iraqi border, that killed 16 civilians may not have been directed at a military objective or may not have been carried out with the “necessary precaution.”
“Launching indiscriminate attacks that result in death or injury to civilians amounts to a war crime in cases in which such attacks are conducted recklessly,” the Commission of Inquiry said in its latest report.
Jeffrey said: “We do not accept the findings of that particular body.”
The study calls for greater collaboration between the U.S. military and humanitarian groups, the declassification of investigations when appropriate, the investment in tools to assist ground force commanders in developing greater situational awareness, and the standardization of how U.S. combatant commands should address wrongdoing.
U.N. Syria envoy Geir Pedersen hosted envoys from Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United States for talks Thursday.
Both Jeffrey and Pedersen expressed concerns about rising violence in the rebel-held Syrian region of Idlib in their comments Thursday to reporters following a meeting of the so-called “small group” of nations: Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Pedersen has made a priority of getting the Syrian government and the opposition to agree on the creation of a committee to rewrite the country’s constitution in hopes that it might lead to a way out from Syria’s 8-year-old war.