Britain, France and the United States on Tuesday presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council condemning the suspected chemical attack in Syria and demanding a full investigation.
The text, obtained by AFP, called on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to report quickly on the findings of its fact-finding mission on the attack that killed at least 58 civilians including children in a rebel-held town in Idlib province.
The measure was circulated to the 15 council members on the eve of an emergency meeting requested by France and Britain to discuss the attack carried out in the early hours on Tuesday in the town of Khan Sheikhun.
Britain, France and the United States are pushing for a vote on the draft text during the meeting on Wednesday, but it remained unclear if Russia would support it, diplomats said.
The draft resolution “condemns in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons” in Syria, in particular the attack on Khan Sheikhun and expresses “outrage” over the use of toxic gases in the six-year war.
It requests that the joint UN-OPCW investigative panel set up to determine who is responsible for chemical attacks in Syria begin work immediately to identify the perpetrators of the latest attack.
The text calls on Syria to provide flight plans, flight logs and other information on its military operations on the day of the assault.
Damascus would be asked to provide the names of all commanders of helicopter squadrons to UN investigators and allow them to meet with generals and other high-ranking officials within five days of their request, the draft resolution said.
Syria would also allow UN and OPCW teams to visit air bases from which the attacks involving chemical weapons may have been launched, according to the text.
The draft resolution also threatened to impose measures under chapter 7 of the UN charter, which provides for sanctions.
Clearly a war crime
Britain, France and the United States blame President Bashar Al Assad’s forces for the attack, but the Syrian army has denied any involvement.
At least 11 children were among the 58 dead, and dozens more civilians suffered respiratory problems and symptoms including vomiting, fainting and foaming at the mouth, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
An AFP correspondent in Khan Sheikhun saw many kids on respirators as they were treated for breathing problems.
“This is clearly a war crime,” British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters.
“I call on the Security Council members who have previously used their vetoes to defend the indefensible to change their course.”
In February, Russia and China vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have imposed sanctions on Syrians accused of being behind chlorine gas attacks on villages in 2014 and 2015.
A UN-led investigation concluded in October that the Syrian air force had dropped chlorine barrel-bombs from helicopters on three opposition-held villages in 2014 and 2015.
The council on Wednesday will hear from Virginia Gamba, the head of the investigative panel, and top UN disarmament official Kim Won-soo, on details of the attack including whether deadly sarin gas was used.
“The perpetrators must be held accountable. We need to address this issue at the Security Council, as soon as possible,” said French Deputy Ambassador Alexis Lamek.