The UN Security Council is meeting in New York at this hour as some countries, led by the US, push for the establishment of a new inquiry into chemical weapons use in Syria.

The emergency session comes after allegations and video images emerged of a possible chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma.

At least 60 people, including many children, died.

What looms is a likely standoff between Russia and many Western countries in the Council who have long pushed for the renewal of the now defunct Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) through which the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigated earlier chemical weapons use in Syria.

The extension of the JIM’s mandate, as it was known, was blocked by a Russia veto.

The JIM found that in previous cases the Syrian government and the terrorist group Isis has used chemical weapons in a number of attacks.

A draft resolution setting up a similar but new mechanism is unlikely to overcome a Russian objection.

UK Ambassador to the UN Karen Pierce says, “I don’t want pre-empt what the Russians may or may not do. They have a responsibility as a P5 member to uphold the key tenets of international peace and security and that includes the chemical weapons convention and weapons of mass destruction. As a responsible P5 member, I hope Russia will at last see the need for a proper investigation of what’s happened and ultimately an accountability mechanism. I’m not holding my breath because as you say, they have vetoed twice before, but I think each time we look at this the accumulative effect of what’s happening on the ground makes it less and less tenable for Russia to veto.”

The United States had earlier indicated that in the absence of Council action in the face of chemical weapons use in Syria, that Washington ‘remained prepared to act if it must.’

The US launched missile strikes against a Syrian airbase after a similar attack in April 2017.

US President Donald Trump says, “We’ll be looking at that barbaric act and studying what’s going on. We’re trying to get people in there. As you know, it’s surrounded. So it’s very hard to get people in, because not only has it been hit, it’s been surrounded. And, if they’re innocent, why aren’t they allowing people to go in and prove? As you know, they are claiming they didn’t make the attack. So, if it’s Russia; if it’s Syria; if it’s Iran; if it’s all of them together, we will figure it out and we will know the answers quite soon. So, we are looking at that very, very strongly and very seriously.”

Despite video evidence, Russia and Syria have denied that a chemical weapons attack took place in Douma with Moscow calling the claims a “provocation”.

They have in turn blamed Israel for escalating the crisis after reports of overnight airstrikes carried out by Israeli military fighter jets on a Syrian airbase.