(Reuters) Gernot Erler, the German government’s point man on Russia, urged the United Nations on Thursday to seek sanctions against Syria for two chlorine gas attacks on civilians, despite Moscow’s threat to veto such a measure.
“The United Nations should prepare clear sanctions, despite the Russian veto threat,” Erler told Germany’s Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung in an interview.
“Moscow is obviously more concerned about being seen as a friend of the criminal Assad regime than in taking joint action and sanctions against this provocative treaty violation,” Erler, a member of the Social Democrats, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition, told the newspaper.
An inquiry by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), unanimously authorized by the 15-member Security Council, also found that ISIL insurgents used sulphur mustard gas.
“The findings are clear,” Erler said. He added that Russia needed to decide if it wanted to risk international isolation in this case.
Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his war with rebels fighting to topple him, and China have previously protected the Damascus government from Council action by blocking several resolutions, including a bid to refer the conflict in Syria to the International Criminal Court.