Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on Syria
I should like at the outset to apologize to the members of the Security Council and the Secretariat for the fact that I ruined their siesta today.
We have requested the convening of an open meeting of the Security Council because the issue that we intend to raise is far too important for the discussion to be held in closed consultations. We have nothing to hide. When we discussed Syria in consultations yesterday, many touched on the importance of establishing a new structure to investigate instances of chemical-weapons use in Syria to supplement the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), which fully discredited itself.
We have never forgotten this issue, and we have consistently recalled in meetings our readiness to continue consultations on this matter, as noted by Minister Lavrov to the Secretary-General last week. Yesterday, however, we were unable to rise to that call. Today, upon instruction from our capital, it is my honour to report the following. Russia has consistently stressed the importance of taking the most serious approach to the problem of the manufacture and use of chemical weapons. We are troubled by manifestations of chemical-weapons terrorism in the Middle East, which are not limited to Syrian territory.
Unfortunately, the JIM, which no longer exists, caused the collapse of the investigation, which from a scientific and technical perspective was an utter failure and became an instrument for political manipulation. Members of the international community and the Security Council were well aware of the Russian specialists’ scrupulous analysis of the conclusions of the JIM.
In an attempt to interpret certain elements of the Russian approach, during consultations on 9 January the United States delegation circulated the relevant document. However, at no point in the document was there even an attempt to approach the matter from a professional standpoint. The so-called refutations of our position do not stand up to any criticism. I invite Council members to familiarize themselves with the material supporting our position in the response that we circulated yesterday as an official Security Council document.
Today, incidentally, senior representatives of the United States Department of State made further unfounded accusations alleging that Russia is hindering international verification of the facts of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. We have already responded to that, and anyone who wants to can read Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov’s comments on the issue.
No one has called more than we have for a further investigation — a professional one rather than a simulacrum — into the incidents involving the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and at the moment we are still trying to get the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to send its specialists to Syria to see for themselves the stockpiles of chemical weapons left by militants in liberated areas that the Syrian Government has discovered.
By the way, during yesterday’s consultations, following the reports of various recent incidents involving the use of toxic substances in Syria, which have yet to be verified, the representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom — without a second’s pause or any evidence, let alone an investigation — hastened to declare them the work of what they refer to as the Syrian “regime”.
Now they are trying to drag Russia into it too. Secretary of State Tillerson brought this up in Paris today at the meeting of the so-called international partnership of States against impunity for the use of chemical weapons, basing his argument on an incident that allegedly occurred yesterday in eastern Ghouta.
However, his statement was devoted almost exclusively to Russia. By the way, does nobody find it strange that this alleged incident, whose genuineness has yet to be confirmed — as does the identity of its perpetrators, if it is genuine — coincided very conveniently with the meeting in Paris and the forthcoming Syrian national dialogue conference in Sochi? An amazing coincidence.
Some States are persisting in their attempts to push through an anti-Damascus verdict at the OPCW at all costs, and thereby undermining that respected organization’s authority. Others are seeking to scrape together a narrow alliance of anti-impunity-ites through non-legitimate formats.
In November of last year, Russia, working with others of like mind, put together draft resolution, which would have ensured that the JIM’s activities conformed to the the high international standards of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which guarantee a genuinely impartial and professional investigation.
The initiative was blocked by a number of delegations at the time. We want to rise above those differences and propose creating a new international investigative body that could establish the facts that the Security Council needs in order to identify those who used toxic substances as weapons, based on irreproachable, irrefutable information from transparent, credible sources. It must be professional and non-politicized.
We have prepared a draft of such a resolution and ask that the Secretariat circulate it. We hope that Council members will study our initiative with their capitals as soon as possible. We are ready for substantive consultations.
The right of reply after all the statements by the Security Council Members:
I am taking the floor to further clarify our position. It is a pity that my friend Mrs. Haley has left the Chamber. She mentioned that we convened this meeting today on short notice, for which I apologize.
As I recall, however, we have frequently been convened by Mrs. Haley’s call, and we are ready to do it again. Please let her know that I am doing it because I am always very pleased to see her here. Once again, everything that we heard from the United States in its statement today was about Russia.
The fact that it is rejecting our proposed draft resolution from the get-go says a great deal. It once again betrays a truth that we are sadly familiar with. The United States has no need of any independent professional mechanism. It is not only betraying a truth, it is betraying itself in the eyes of the international community.
Let me say straight out what I spoke about before in a rhetorical question. It was no accident that the allegations — which will remain allegations until they are confirmed — about the use of chemical weapons in eastern Ghouta emerged on the eve of some important political events for Syria, the meeting in Vienna and the Syrian national dialogue conference in Sochi.
Furthermore, I will say it again, why does the United States need an investigative mechanism when both yesterday and today, before any kind of investigation, it asserted, without apparently a shadow of doubt, that it was the Syrian Government that did it? It has taken the role of both judge and prosecutor. Does the United States at least understand that it is betraying itself by this? If it genuinely wants to establish a professional, independent attributive mechanism, it should at least read the draft resolution before rejecting it. Did we not discuss a new mechanism with Council members of the Council at the conclusion of the multiple acts in the political spectacle surrounding the closure of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism? We did not time our draft resolution to coincide with any events or partnerships.
However, I want to reiterate something that I spoke about at a Council meeting presided over by President Nazarbayev on 18 January, which is that no commissions, partnerships or so-called independent mechanisms in this area can be legitimate unless they are approved by the Security Council. That must be our premise. I would like to echo what the Permanent Representative of Sweden — and he was not the only one — said in his statement, which is that we must overcome our differences, engage in dialogue and try to restore the Council’s lost unity. That is the aim of our proposal.