Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on the Syrian "chemical dossier"
We thank Mrs. Nakamitsu for her briefing.
For a long time now, some Western States have made Syria’s so-called chemical dossier, which the Security Council considers every month, into a tool for putting pressure on the authorities in Damascus — a tool that destroys the foundations of international cooperation in the area of the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Syria’s chemical-weapon stockpiles were removed and eliminated under the supervision of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The former military-chemical programme’s facilities have been destroyed. Inspections of the scientific research centre have revealed no undeclared activities, and after the missile strikes on the installations by the United States and its allies any inspection activities would be pointless.
The subject of Syria’s initial declaration under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) has become particularly ritualized. For all these years, the Syrian Government has conscientiously cooperated with the OPCW Technical Secretariat. It has provided all the information it possesses, but the number of socalled unresolved issues is only increasing.
Damascus has reached a point where it has no more data. Any possibility of shedding light on a host of issues has gone, but they have been artificially kept on the agenda. The investigations conducted by the former OPCWUnited Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) have gone down in history as blatantly unprofessional and outrageously politicized. They were artificially directed at one goal, tarnishing the international reputation of the Syrian authorities.
Our attempts to bring the JIM’s work into alignment with CWC standards were firmly blocked. The logical outcome of those manipulations was the closure of the Mechanism. I should add that we have yet to hear a reasonable explanation from the Secretariat about how effectively the principles of the confidentiality and inviolability of the former JIM’s archives are being ensured, as established in the scope of its authority. We have had information that there have been unacceptable leaks of sensitive data, which must stop immediately.
So far we have not been able to change the parameters of the operations of the OPCW Fact-finding Mission in the Syrian Arab Republic, which prefers to work remotely and base its research on dubious sources that are known to be hostile to the Syrian authorities. Attempts to reform the Mission in accordance with the provisions of the CWC have been met with stiff resistance from those whom this state of affairs suits. Meanwhile, Damascus’s opponents continue to design new structures, needless to say according to their own rules, as a result of which the OPCW has lately been literally bursting at the seams.
In June, a decision by an absolute minority vote of the States parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention was pushed through assigning to the organization in The Hague the job of determining those responsible for the use of chemical weapons. The decision is illegitimate, because it contradicts the letter and spirit of the CWC and would require substantial amendments to the text of the Convention that would require the consent of all member States. Besides that, it is a blatant infringement on the Security Council’s exclusive prerogatives.
The people behind that initiative are now attempting to extract budget funds for implementing the attribution resolution and tailoring the OPCW’s programme of work for the coming year accordingly. That is being done with violations of the rules of procedure and severe pressure being put on the parties to the CWC. The OPCW, which began as an effective mechanism for international control in the area of chemical disarmament, is losing its authority and becoming an instrument for putting political pressure on undesirable countries.
Against that backdrop, we continue to receive alarming information that terrorist groups in Syria are pursuing their preparations for large-scale provocations through the use of toxic substances, in cooperation with the White Helmets. Our Syrian colleagues regularly bring indications of this to the Council’s attention and the Russian military also has information on it. For example, we know that on 27 October, militias from the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria transferred 20 decalitre containers of chlorine from Maarrat Al-Nu’man.
Local residents reported to the Russian Centre for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in the Syrian Arab Republic that White Helmet activists were looking for people willing to take part in filming staged video footage in exchange for food. We have received similar information from Aleppo province, where the White Helmets brought canisters of toxic substances and professional video-recording equipment to the towns of Azaz, Marea and Al-Rai. Those provocations are clearly designed to pin a label on the violator of the non-proliferation regime in Syria, create a reason for renewed acts of aggression against Damascus and hold Russia up to shame as an alleged enabler of the “heinous crimes of the regime”.
Our military experts are monitoring the situation. We have radiation, chemical and biological reconnaissance vehicles deployed at posts in the immediate vicinity of the demilitarized zone in Idlib province that will help us analyse the situation. The negative side of the politicization of the topic of Syria’s former chemical warfare programme is the lack of an adequate response to the genuine threat of chemical terrorism in Syria and the Middle East. The initiatives that Russia has launched in that regard are being deliberately obstructed.
However, we hope that life will compel an end to such unconstructive approaches.