The U.N. mandate to investigate claims that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on his own people in April expired at midnight Friday.
Earlier Friday, Russia for the third time vetoed a U.N. resolution to extend the investigation by the Joint Investigative Mechanism.
The latest veto Friday was a Japan-proposed compromise for a 30-day extension.
“In a world in which the council’s time and attention could be productively devoted to 100 different things, Russia is wasting our time,” Ambassador Nikki R. Haley of the United States said after Russia’s latest veto. “Russia can obstruct this council but it can’t obstruct the truth.”
Bolivia also voted against the resolution. China, which has veto power, abstained among the 15 Security Council members.
Italian U.N. Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, president of the Security Council, said they “will continue to work in the coming hours and days to find a common position in light, of course, of this crucial non-proliferation issue that we have been debating for the last days.”
Syria’s government has denied it has any chemical weapons or that it was involved in a sarin attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun that killed more than 80 people. In response, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase this spring.
Last month, United Nations and international chemical weapons inspectors determined that al-Assad’s regime was responsible for the attack.
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia after his veto said they were “baseless accusations.” Russia has said the investigative body is prejudiced against Russia and cited “flaws” with the investigators’ work.
Before the latest veto, the White House condemned Russia’s actions Friday.
“Russia has sent a clear message that it does not value the lives of the victims of chemical weapons attacks or respect reasonable standards of international conduct regarding the use of such weapons,” according to a statement from the White House.
Russia has submitted its own resolution, saying: “We reaffirm our intention, soon after receiving the report, to submit specific proposals for the Security Council’s consideration on what should be done to ensure, in deed, not in word, genuine independence, impartiality and professionalism in investigating crimes with the use of toxic agents.”
By Allen Cone