Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the implementation of resolution 2118 (Syria CW)


We thank Ms.Nakamitsu for presenting another report by OPCW Director-General on the progress of UNSC resolution 2118. Unfortunately, it is an almost verbatim replica of the previous reports. Those documents have long assumed the "presumption of Damascus’s guilt” as their guiding principle. Whatever steps Syrians may make to accommodate OPCW – those will never be enough.

All reports that OPCW Technical Secretariat submits to the Security Council can be summarized in advance so that the Council does not have to lose time monthly discussing same-type reports. Besides, as we know from experience, “thinner” schedule of meetings on this item does not impact the quality of UNSC discussions of the Syrian chemical file.

We have presented our position on many occasions – we regard all claims to Syria, first of all in the context of its initial declaration as invalid. I will not go deep into detail today. The current report however exposes one obvious irregularity of anti-Syrian narrative.

This narrative is centered around one point – Syria’s lack of cooperation with OPCW’s Declaration Assessment Team (DAT), which only manifests itself in non-issuance of visas to one member of the DAT. Here I feel obliged to remind that cooperation with the DAT is part of Syria’s voluntary bilateral obligations. But even if we put this aside, a question begs itself. Bilateral interaction of the Technical Secretariat with the Syrians – is it all focused on one single expert? What if this expert had not been able to arrive in Syria for other reasons, e.g. health issues? Would it be a good reason for the Technical Secretariat to cancel the 25th round of consultations? Does it mean that discussion of Syria’s initial declaration, the relevance of which our Western colleagues underscore tirelessly would be put on hold?

Speaking of visas. Russian experts who are supposed to take part in events at the UN Headquarters in New York encounter this visa problem on a regular basis, even though host authorities must issue visas in a timely manner. We believe these visa-related allegations against Syrians are another case of double standards.

Let me ask –if Syria agrees to issue visa to this DAT representative, what are the guarantees that the Technical Secretariat will not come up with other far-fetched pretexts to postpone the consultations again and blame Damascus for that? Suffice it to say that Syrians were ready to accommodate the DAT last summer. But OPCW Director-General, Mr.F.Arias publicly refused to send a mission to Damascus – allegedly due to the uncomfortable climate conditions. As a result, consultations were seriously delayed. But the report does not mention it. Instead, it only attempts to shift the blame to Syrians.

Looking at further excuses of the Technical Secretariat and Director-General of the OPCW, we realize that the Hague is not interested in a constructive dialogue with the Syrian side on issues of initial declaration. Besides, it is abnormal that the current Director-General, after more than 4 years in office, evades visiting Syria the best he can.

Hence a question to Ms.Nakamitsu: looking back at your vast experience as a UN official and previous practice of the Secretariat, is it a usual thing that a director-general never visits the country that his institution focuses on, and that he only has second-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground that he receives from his subordinates? Have you seen any such cases across the UN system? This politically-motivated choice negatively affects the efficiency of OPCW implementing its mandate.


Today marks the 25th anniversary of Chemical Weapons Convention entry into force. Russia stood at the origins of this Convention, so strong commitment to its implementation is not a mere formality for us. Faithful implementation and strengthening of the CWC is our moral duty. That is why, despite the complex context, we supported consensus on the press statement that the Council endorsed today. By the way, same as we supported a resolution on Libya, which we somehow were criticized for.

We are proud that back in 2017, our country fully and in advance, under close international control fulfilled all its obligations with regard to elimination of chemical weapons. Report by OPCW Director-General dated 5 October 2017 confirmed this fact. We call on those who have not yet implemented all obligations under the CWC to follow our suit.

Today we pay tribute to the CWC as a unique mechanism for disarmament that has no alternative. Elimination of Syrian chemical stockpiles was an example of CWC’s effectiveness. When joining the OPCW, Damascus faithfully complied with all relevant obligations that it assumed in this regard, of which the Secretary-General reported to the Security Council in June 2014. The fact of final elimination of all stockpiles was confirmed in 2016 by the Executive Council and States Parties Conference of the OPCW.

This was made possible thanks to firm political commitment of the Syrian authorities to give up its military chemical program, and also to the fact that the global community had opted for conventional mechanisms.

But however unique and valuable the CWC may be, the way the OPCW monitors its implementation is of principled importance. And we must say that in the past 25 years, the OPCW has had both ups and downs at this track. It was several years ago when we first saw signs of a dangerous trend towards politicization of the work of OPCW. Now those trends are in full blossom.

As shown by the Syrian chemical file, OPCW that used to be an independent and impartial guardian of the Chemical Weapons Convention, is transforming into a tool to punish those whom Western states do not like. OPCW governing bodies are forced to adopt illegitimate decisions that endow the Technical Secretariat with quasi-prosecutor authorities. In violation of the CWC, the Technical Secretariat carries out biased “investigations” that are used as a pretext for exerting political pressure. Inside the Secretariat, persecution threatens all “dissidents” who refuse to subscribe to another political order that came down their power vertical. Top representatives of the Technical Secretariat avoid talking about these trends and obviously have no intention of correcting them.

Such blatant examples can make a long list to include i.a. the notorious Douma report by the Fact Finding Mission (FFM), the final version of which was largely doctored as compared to the initial one and, contrary to firm facts, made more anti-Syrian under pressure of some delegations. Another shameful aspect was the activity of the illegitimate Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), which was established once a corresponding decision was “pushed through” the OPCW Executive Council thus infringing the principle of consensus and violating Article XV of the CWC. Vicious methods of both FFM and IIT violate CWC principles of collection of evidence and the chain of custody. Reports proceed from the information that was collected remotely from biased sources, first of all the notorious “White Helmets”.

These ill-meant practices triggered a situation when for the first time in history a sovereign state, faithfully upholding the CWC, was incapacitated at the OPCW. Western delegations “pushed through” this punitive decision in violation of CWC norms and the principle of consensus.

Therefore, the OPCW has approached its quarter-of-a-century anniversary with very serious systemic issues and considerably spoiled reputation. Integrity of CWC itself was also damaged, which raises our utmost concern. Should the situation persist, the OPCW will waste all its authority in the next few years and turn into an instrument used by small group of states to facilitate their geopolitical goals. If this comes true, the CWC will be perceived as a tool of punishment. It will sustain a heavy blow on the basics of the chemical weapons prohibition regime and entire non-proliferation architecture, and start a “chain reaction” of mistrust affecting other international tools of WMD non-proliferation.

We call on OPCW leadership to draw their conclusions, correct previous mistakes, recover OPCW’s inherent spirit of professional de-politicized cooperation and apply it to real challenges in the area of chemical disarmament and non-proliferation that the global community is facing today, first of all given threats of use of toxic chemicals and combat poisonous agents by terrorist and extremist structures. Now that DG Arias has been re-elected, he has a second chance to do so.

In conclusion, despite the problem of politicizing that aggravates the work of the OPCW, the Chemical Weapons Convention has lost none of its relevance. The CWC remains the only example of a universal multilateral treaty banning a whole class of WMDs. Russia fully supports the CWC and remains committed to its letter and spirit. But we have reservations about the way OPCW implements the Convention’s provisions. Yet we are convinced that given political will of the OPCW leadership, all current problems can be solved. We stand ready to assist with this, and we call on all UNSC members to do the same.

Thank you.


Right of reply by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy:


I cannot but avail of this opportunity, since it is your concluding meeting as President. I cannot say we are not glad that today is the final meeting of this month. I will explain: in popular fiction books and movies British diplomats and officials are usually depicted as very polite and courteous people, who care for traditions and always remain true to their word. But over this past month, while standing at the helm of the Council, you managed if not ruin, but significantly undermine this stereotype. Beyond any doubt, your Presidency will make it in diplomacy handbooks as a reference to show what UNSC President should not do, regardless of personal convictions and attitudes of a Permanent Representatives, and regardless of their capital’s opportunistic interests.

Over this month, you either undermined or subversed all written and non-written rules, on which trust and constructive engagement of Council members is based. Notwithstanding the geopolitical situation, we will long be feeling the implications of your acts. I do wish every success to the incoming US Presidency. I believe that in contrast to your leadership, it will not be hard for them to be a success. We will share more details during the wrap-up session today.

Thank you.