Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security (the situation inSyria)
We are greatful to the Secretary-General for his briefing. His participation, his assessments and his authoritative words about the situation that has developed are very significant. We agree with him that there are many wounds in the Middle East. However, most important, currently the deepest wound is the situation in Syria, insofar as any negative repercussions would have major global implications.
Two days ago, news of a threat by the United States to launch missile strikes against the Syrian Arab Republic ricocheted around the world. The Russian Federation was also warned to prepare for strikes. Let me point out that our military is in Syria at the invitation of its legitimate Government in order to combat international terrorism.
We continue to see dangerous military preparations for an illegal act of force against a sovereign State in violation of the norms of international law. It is not just the use of force but even the threat of it that flies in the face of the Charter of the United Nations, and that is precisely what we are seeing in the most recent statements and actions of Washington and its allies. The bellicose rhetoric is being ratcheted up at every level, including at the very top.
Additional forces and assets of the United States military and its allies are bearing down on the Syrian coast. It feels as though Washington is singlemindedly heading towards unleashing a military scenario against Syria. That cannot be permitted. Such developments would be fraught with terrible consequences for global security, especially considering that a Russian military contingent is deployed in Syria. There are also those who have been observing these risky preparations with tacit approval, declaring that they understand Washington’s motives or engaging in direct incitement, thereby becoming potential accomplices in an act of reckless military adventurism. There are people in the Security Council who love to talk about preventive diplomacy. Right now, for some reason, they are nowhere to be seen or heard.
The guilty parties have been speedily identified not just before any investigation has been conducted but even before it has been established whether the incident in question took place at all, but evidently they must still be punished. Someone will have to answer for these unfortunate developments and for the previous interventions that have engulfed many countries in years of crisis with untold casualties. Witness the recent experience of Iraq and Libya, which, among other things, shows that the attitude of America’s leaders to the Security Council is largely one of convenience. They need it as cover for their Iraqi test tubes and Libyan no-fly zones. What they are presenting us with now is another virtual test tube, and an empty one.
The reckless behaviour of the United States as it tramples on international law and State sovereignty is unworthy of its status as a permanent member of the Security Council, which presupposes the highest possible degree of responsibility and certainly not a right to sabre rattling, a right that is unknown in international law. Why does the United States continue to torture the Middle East, provoking one conflict after another and pitting the States of the region against one another? Who will benefit from a potential strike against the Syrian military, which is taking the brunt of the fight against terrorism and achieving major victories in it? We know for sure that the ringleaders of the Syrian armed groups were given orders to launch an offensive after a possible military action. Is this latest wave of chaos really being unleashed just for that?
The excuse is the alleged use of toxic substances in the Syrian town of Douma on 7 April, for which there has been no reliable confirmation. Our specialists found no trace of the use of toxic substances. The residents of Douma know of no such attack. All the evidence of the alleged attack has been provided by anti-Government forces for whom this development is in their interests. We have good reason — indeed, we have information — leading us to believe that what took place was a provocation with the participation of various countries’ intelligence services.
We have been issuing warnings about this for a long time. It is a repeat of the Khan Shaykhun scenario in April of last year. The Syrian Government, for which this is clearly the last thing it needs, has said that it was not involved and has sent a request for an immediate inspection by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of the location of the alleged incident. It has offered security guarantees jointly with the Russian military. The mission is already getting started on its work in Syria and we hope that it will be able to conduct a truly independent and impartial investigation. Only the Security Council has the authority at the international level to decide what measures to take and against whom in connection with the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Russia will continue to work diligently and systematically to de-escalate the recent tensions in international relations.
We proposed adopting a brief resolution in support of the OPCW inspection mission in Douma that the United States, Britain and France irresponsibly blocked, thereby demonstrating their lack of interest in an investigation. The only thing they care about is overthrowing the Syrian Government and, more broadly, deterring the Russian Federation. This has been clearly visible in other international and domestic political events built on unfounded hoaxes and conspiracy theories that always centre around the Russian Federation. What is the United States trying to achieve?
After many years of internecine strife in Syria, significant areas of the country have been stabilized. The political process is reviving and indicators of national reconciliation are emerging. The terrorists have been dealt a significant blow. We have never denied that the United States has also made a certain contribution to achieving that shared goal, but it has always kept certain types of terrorists in reserve for its fight against the so-called regime and for advancing its geopolitical priorities in the region. My British colleague is always asking me what Russia is doing to implement resolution 2401 (2018). My answer is that my country is practically the only one that is doing anything about it.
Over the course of the Astana process, peace has been restored in more than 2,500 towns and villages. That does not mean that they have become victims of the regime, as the United States calls it, merely that with the help of Russia and other guarantors they have established normal relations with the central authorities in Damascus. With the support of the United Nations, the Syrian National Dialogue Congress was held successfully in Sochi. How many towns and villages has the United States brought peace to? How many groups has it persuaded to join the ceasefire agreements?
In order to break the deadlock in the situation in eastern Ghouta after the adoption of resolution 2401 (2018), complex negotiations were conducted with the leaders of armed groups, with Russian assistance. The militias and their family members were safely evacuated from the district, and civilians were finally given the opportunity to shake off years of terror. Film of their genuine joy exists, but the Western media is not showing it.
The United States does not care about the fate of the prisoners of the militias in eastern Ghouta who had been supporters of the Syrian Government. When they were bargaining with the Syrian authorities to exchange prisoners, the militias claimed that they were holding between 2,000 and 4,000 people. Now it turns out that there are far fewer. People died from harsh treatment and hard labour digging huge tunnels for their torturers. Some members have grieved to see their bearded pilgrims setting off for Syria on free tourist tickets. They lost no opportunity to shriek from every street corner about the plight of the hundreds of thousands of people in besieged eastern Ghouta.
Now those people need help in rebuilding normal lives, but these Council members have already lost interest because the area is under Government control. Now there will have to be unpleasant discussions about the blockade of Fo’ah and Kefraya. When was the last time a humanitarian convoy was there? When was the last time Council members even asked about it? Someone must answer for the coalition’s destruction of Raqqa. These are dangerous developments, with farreaching ramifications for global security. In this instance, responsibility lies entirely with the United States and its allies. It is a pity that Old Europe continues to lose face.
We call on the leaders of these States to immediately reconsider, return to the international legal fold and not to lead the world to the dangerous brink. We urgently need to find a peaceful way out through a collective effort. The Russian Federation is ready to cooperate equitably with all partners and to solve the problems that may arise through dialogue.
We will continue to focus on finding a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Syria based on established international law. We will continue to work actively to that end, and we call on all our partners to do the same.