Nikki Haley
Nikki Haley Reuters

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, responded on Tuesday to reports of chlorine gas being used by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's army against civilians in Eastern Ghouta.

In a statement, Haley said that the reports of chlorine gas being used by the Syrian regime "are yet another demonstration of its blatant disregard for international law and cruel indifference for the lives of its own people."

In November, Russia vetoed the renewal of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), the independent, impartial, technical group unanimously created by the UN Security Council to investigate the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria and identify those responsible.

“When Russia killed the JIM, they sent a dangerous message to the world – one that not only said chemical weapons use is acceptable but also that those who use chemical weapons don’t need to be identified or held accountable. If these reports are true, this attack in Syria should weigh heavily on their conscience. The United States will never stop fighting for the innocent Syrian children, women, and men who have become victims of their own government - and those who continue to prop it up,” Haley said.

At a UN Security Council meeting on chemical weapons use in Syria, Haley said, “We know that for years Russia has looked the other way while their Syrian friends use these despicable weapons of war,” Haley said. “Russia is complicit in the Assad regime’s atrocities. Will the Russian Federation say anything at all today about the suffering caused by Assad’s barbaric tactics? Will they hold Assad to account? Of course not. They never do.”

“Here’s the bottom line. The Security Council gave the Joint Investigative Mechanism a mandate to tell us who used chemical weapons in Syria. When investigators found ISIS to be responsible, Russia was fine. When the investigators found that the Assad regime used them, Russia tried to find any excuse to poke holes in the investigation and threw up smoke [screens] to question the findings. But that is not how independent investigations work. You don’t get to question the findings when they don’t go your way.

“We’re not going to accept any Russian proposal that undermines our ability to get to the truth or that politicizes what must be an independent and impartial investigation. If they want to work in good faith toward that goal, we are ready to re-establish the JIM, with its original independent and impartial mandate, right now. But anything less is unacceptable.

“The United States and the international community are not going to be fooled. We remain steadfast in pursuing accountability for those who use chemical weapons. We stand strong in doing all that we can to preserve the norm against their use. And we remain forever committed to preserving the truth of what the Assad regime has done in Syria and, sadly, what they will likely continue to do.”

Haley also promised that the US will pursue all available avenues for accountability, including the UN Security Council, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Syria, the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism for Syria (IIIM), and the International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons.

Russia sharply criticized the JIM after its latest report blamed the Syrian air force for a sarin gas attack last April on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun that left scores dead.

The Syrian regime denies having any connection to the April attack and, in general, to any chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

The OPCW has in the past determined that civilians in Syria may have been exposed to chemicals even after the Syrian government agreed to a 2013 deal, brokered by the U.S. and Russia, to surrender its chemical weapons.