Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on Syria
At the outset, I would like to congratulate you, Mr. President, at the beginning of your presidency of the Security Council for the month of February. I wish you every success.
We also thank Ms. Nakamitsu for her briefing. We trust that, with the assistance of the United Nations Office for Project Services and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the two remaining above-ground Syrian chemical-weapon facilities will be promptly destroyed.
The Syrian side has repeatedly demonstrated its interest in that. The pending issues related to the initial declarations should be dealt with as part of the dialogue between the OPCW and the Syrian Government. We welcome such cooperation, by which Syria, as a conscientious party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, provides the necessary assistance, complies with its obligations and facilitates access to the relevant documents.
Many people have raised false issues that should now be closed and put aside. Syria’s chemical-weapon capacity was destroyed under the oversight of the OPCW. However, it seems that there are some who wish to contrive to fan the flames on the issue. The Syrians have provided exhaustive explanations. However, issues are being raised and questions are being asked in a endless cycle.
The Syrian side consistently reports to the international community, including the Security Council, about the detection of toxic chemical substances in areas liberated from the terrorists. There are reports from Syria about possible provocations that may be used by representatives of foreign intelligence services.
All such reports must be investigated immediately by the experts of the OPCW. However, we note that, in general, tremendous efforts are necessary for The Hague to duly respond to the important message. There are numerous pretexts being put forward not to travel there and decisions are being delayed. In the light of last year’s story of Khan Shaykhun and the Shayrat air base, such conduct suggests deliberate sabotage.
However, the statements today have left us with the impression that it is not Syria that some delegations are interested in. The United States and the United Kingdom have used today’s meeting to slander Russia, and it is quite clear why that is happening.
Someone cannot tolerate the success of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi and the prospects it offers for injecting new momentum into the political process in Syria. That requires launching a major campaign of slander against Russia in order to try, not for the first time, to cast doubt on Russia’s role in the Syrian political settlement.
As always, the statements of these representatives contain a grain of truth mixed with mountains of lies. Russia has never contested the use of sarin in Khan Shaykhun. But who it was used by is still a mystery, because the absurd conclusions of the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) have not convinced us. In the past few days there has been general uproar about alleged incidents involving the use of chlorine in some Damascus suburbs. There has already been talk of the use of sarin. Where? When? By whom? The outlines of this propaganda campaign are not new.
The terrorists, through the social associations that are closely linked to them, foremost among them the notorious White Helmets, spread rumours via social networks. These are instantly picked up by the Western press, and then we get representatives speechifying in the Security Council, making unproved accusations about the so-called Syrian regime and spreading slander about Russia.
I have said it before and I will say it again: has anyone thought to ask the basic question as to why the Syrian Government needs to use chemical weapons? What do we suppose that could do for it? The first thing we should do, and various speakers today, particularly the representative of Sweden, have discussed this, is to send an OPCW fact-finding mission to those areas to investigate. Where is the presumption of innocence?
The speakers are blaming the so-called regime for everything in advance, before any investigation. What do they want an independent investigative mechanism for?
Surely at least they know that an investigation has to precede any conclusions. But apparently they do not need one. In my opinion, it should be completely clear to everyone that that the capitals that these representatives represent in the Council have absolutely no interest in any investigation. They do not need facts or precise evidence. They need to see a political order carried out.
On 23 January, Russia announced the launch in the Security Council of expert efforts to draft a resolution establishing a new investigative entity for incidents involving the use of chemical weapons to replace the defunct OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism, which was killed by the United States and its allies when they blocked the draft resolution (S/2017/968) that we proposed, together with China and Bolivia, designed to ensure that the Mechanism could be genuinely independent and professional. Not only do they not recall that episode, they have made strenuous attempts to convince the Security Council and the world community of the opposite.
It has become clear that some of our partners are not prepared to consider this possibility. They want a second JIM that would continue to rubber-stamp the scientifically and technically ridiculous anti-Damascus conclusions on the basis of disinformation generously supplied by militant groups. They have long had a persistent allergy to the pressing need to pay close attention to the activities of terrorist groups, both in Syria and beyond its borders, in the context of manipulating toxic substances. In the realization that we will not allow the now entirely discredited JIM to be revived, Syria’s opponents are now attempting to take alternative routes, cobbling together narrow groups of like-minded people.
However, they are forgetting that in doing that they are undermining the authority of international bodies, particularly the United Nations and the OPCW, and destroying the international architecture on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Any initiatives in the context of the use of chemical weapons that circumvent the OPCW would be illegitimate. We certainly hope that the leadership of the United Nations Secretariat and the OPCW Technical Secretariat will make a firm show of will and distance themselves from such dubious projects.
We are ready to accept a press statement on the Syrian chemical issue, but not the one proposed by its sponsors, because in its current form its purpose is quite clearly to blame the Government of Syria for what is so far the unproved use of chemical weapons. Somehow the draft statement does not say anything about the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, but the reference to Article 7 of the Charter of the United Nations leaves no doubt as to its essence.
We cannot accept any still unconfirmed references to the use of chemical weapons without a credible investigation, nor can we accept any threats to a sovereign State for unproved actions. For some reason, eastern Ghouta has been dragged into the statement. I would like to remind the Council that last week we were prepared to accept an agreed-on draft presidential statement on the humanitarian situation in Syria. But our partners preferred to reject it.
We are ready to accept a press statement, but not as it is proposed by our colleagues. We have proposed amendments to it that we are ready to circulate and agree on in that form.