Remarks to the press by Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, following the Security Council consultations on the 4th report of the JIM
V.Churkin: First of all let me say in my national capacity, let me draw your attention once again to the fact that the Russian delegation has circulated today an important paper as an official document of the Security Council and also among the media representatives. I hope all of you have this document. This is a Comparative analysis of implementation of CoH arrangements which were worked out jointly by Russia and the United States. I think it is very important to have this document in mind. To have this sequence of events in mind if you are interested in a serious analysis of the crisis in Syria and the recent efforts to settle that crisis.
Now let me go back to my responsibilities as the President of the SC. We just had a meeting where we heard the 4th report of the JIM (Joint Investigative Mechanism), UN-OPCW JIM headed by Ms.Gamba and I understand she is going to speak to you later on. I think we had a very good discussion. As far as the Russian delegation is concerned, let me switch back to my national position, we presented a very technical thorough analysis of our understanding of the report and I’m told that while I was speaking at the consultations my statement was leaked to the media. It may have been done by my press-secretary. It is something which we need to face not emotionally, not politically out of our desire to do things, but something that we need to deal with very professionally, technically and seriously.
So I think that this discussion has contributed to this kind of analysis of the work of JIM. And we also had a brief discussion of what is the next step for JIM. There was a suggestion voiced by one or two delegations which we should go for a technical extension of this mechanism. The Russian delegation supported by some other delegations stated that we do not see any need to hurry. We should allow Ms.Gamba and her team to take a little break and analyze the situation. What Russia would like to see, if this mechanism needs to be extended, the anti-terrorist element of its work must be strengthened and also it must be given regional dimension, not just a dimension limited to the territory of Syria but regional dimension. Because we know that in that part of the world, which unfortunately is presenting particular terrorist danger these days, terrorists cross borders and we know that they are involved in the preparation of chemical weapons and there are numerous reports of terrorists having used chemical weapons. So this is where it stands in terms of the possible future of JIM. Any questions?
Q: Yes. Ambassador, as you know resolution 2118 was the work of US-Russian initiative and that resolution says there should be Chapter VII action if there are chemical weapons used in Syria. The JIM has concluded there were chemical weapons used in Syria so should there now be punitive action?
V.Churkin: You need to see what is in the report. We believe that proof is not there for any big punitive action to be taken, it is simply not there. Let’s continue the discussion. We’ll continue studying the report. Please, read the remarks I made. They are very serious technical remarks which bring to light certain weaknesses, let’s face it, in the work of JIM. We highly appreciate their attitude to the task they were given. They were given an extremely difficult task to investigate things which happened two years ago without even visiting the sites which were involved. They did their best, I suppose. In some instances they fell short. In some instances we believe they arrived at wrong conclusions. If we are responsible, if we are not looking for another “big initiative” in order to stir trouble and to try to penalize or criticize the Syrian government, if we are serious about the problem of the use of chemical weapons, we need to look at it, at the current situation very seriously and see how we can continue working against the use of the chemical weapons in Syria and beyond.
Q: You mentioned the changes that Russia would like to see to the JIM mandate. Have you made these proposals to the US which has drafted the resolution? According to your statement you are basically saying that the Syrian government should investigate the cases where the JIM found fault so you are saying the Syrian government should investigate its own fault?
V.Churkin: This is what they are supposed to do under the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) Convention. What we are saying is that the OPCW Convention must be respected. We are not saying that this is the only thing which needs to be done. We are continuing the discussion, we are continuing to study the JIM report. But they need to do what they are supposed to do under OPCW Convention. What we are against is people saying we should forget about OPCW mechanism, let’s go for something else. In our view it would be wrong on the substance of it and also in terms of disrespect to the OPCW Convection and after all the mechanism is a very venerated mechanism which has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Q: Mr.President, so you are suggesting that no more investigations and no accountability. Then what is the main achievement in all of these chemical weapons fights in Syria? You are the main co-sponsor for Resolution 2118 that was adopted in 2013. So what is the main achievement for all these years?
V.Churkin: Our American colleagues believe, and I tend to agree, that it might have served a deterrent role. If we continue working in that direction, especially if we start looking more closely at the terrorist activities, maybe the terrorists will have less incentive to try to create provocations in order to stir up the pot and to create a propaganda storm all over the world. So we believe that the presence of JIM has been useful. Unfortunately what they did is something which can be exposed to criticism and there are some weaknesses in the results but we think that it has been a useful exercise.
Q: Ambassador, just a clarification. Are you going to veto a technical rollover? And another question. You have been criticizing the UN officials today, yesterday, last week. What is the deal between Russia and the United Nations now?
V.Churkin: What kind of a deal? What are you talking about? We are working very closely with them all over the place. We are working closely with the United Nations. I don’t know what your concern is about.
Q: And regarding clarification on the technical rollover?
V.Churkin: There is a problem. I was asked actually by one of the Ambassadors during consultations: if you want to see changes in the JIM mandate, why don’t we have a technical rollover now, and then keep discussing that and make these changes? Unfortunately, this does not work in the SC. We have this situation - Russia and China a while ago made very modest proposal that JIM’s mandate should be enlarged by just a little bit. Simply asking them, basically, to collect newspaper clippings, which would reflect reports and rumors or whatever, information about the possible activities of terrorist groups which we know is there – Iraq, Turkey, Syria, maybe somewhere else in the region to prepare for the use of chemical weapons, to “cook” those weapons to be used in future or to prepare provocations with the use of chemical weapons. We were told flat-out “no”. This is the problem. If you simply come and say: “Please the United States, please the UK, please France, let’s make this little correction”. If it is something which takes away their attention or the attention of the SC in their view from the only goal which they have in this JIM exercise and this is to accuse the Syrian government, they are loosing all interest in that. So if we were to allow this technical extension there is no chance we can accept or receive strengthening of the JIM mandate in the future.
Q: Including the terrorist part would make Russia accept that extension?
V.Churkin: Yes. We need to work it out. This is what we want to do. We want to have a much stronger mechanism, which would also be looking at the terrorist chemical threat.
Q: Ambassador, there are reports that P3 are also weighing a possible second resolution which would be focused on sanctioning the Syrian government, helicopter parts, the SSRC. Would Russia accept such a resolution?
V.Churkin: First of all, I have not heard those reports. I can tell you as the President of the Security Council that in the course of the discussion we had today nothing was mentioned to that effect. Some members of the Council (two or three) posed the questions: what next and how we are going to go about it, but there is no answer.
Q: Thus there are some contradictions in what you are saying. You are saying on the one side you respect the work of the JIM and they did a great work. But you are saying you are not accepting the results of their work which among others accusing the Syrian regime of using chemical weapons…
V.Churkin: We respect their effort. I think that they were trying very hard. Obviously they were pushed very strongly in certain directions. But the fact that we respect their efforts does not mean that we cannot criticize their findings. We have people who look at those these things very seriously and they produced this analysis which I shared with the members of the Council in consultations today.
Q: Ambassador, just to clarify. You think that on the back of JIM report no further actions needs to be taken by the Security Council? The Security Council will not impose sanctions on the people mentioned in the report?
V.Churkin: No, I have not said that. I said that first of all we need to continue studying the forth report and the previous reports of JIM. Let’s see what can be done. Frankly, I have not looked at this issue myself. But something which would certainly be in line with the actual findings of the report. If the Security Council finds a way, maybe in the context of extension of JIM mandate maybe outside of the context, to send a message which would be appropriate given the nature of the findings of JIM we would be prepared to look at it.
Q: The UK and France have said they want to place sanctions on those people who are responsible for the chemical weapons attacks? Would Russia agree to that?
V.Churkin: If they prove on the basis of all those reports that in fact those reports indicate that we know who the people are and that we are sure that they actually did what they were accused of having done, then we will look at it. But I have not heard any technical reasoning in the statements which were made by some of our colleagues. We came with very solid I believe technical analysis. They have not.