Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Anna Evstigneeva at open UNSC briefing on issues related to implementation of resolution 2118
This is the first open meeting of the Security Council this month, so I would like to thank the delegation of India for its Presidency in the month of August, and wish every success to the delegation of Ireland in guiding the activity of the Council in September.
This month marks one year since the Council began its discussions of issues related to implementation of resolution 2118 in open briefings. This format of “Syria CW” discussions has proven effective over that time. Transparency appears to be especially important in the context of the Syrian chemical file given the approaches that OPCW Technical Secretariat has adhered to in the recent years.
We thank Ms.Nakamitsu for presenting the 95th report of the OPCW Director-General on the progress of resolution 2118. Unfortunately, the report remains as misbalanced as it used to.
What raises our particular indignation is that this report (just like the previous one) again deliberately shifts focus when covering the episode with an air strike that targeted a declared chemical facility on the Syrian territory on 8 June 2021 and destroyed two cylinders that had been related to the Douma incident of April 2018. Report still gives no assessment to the very fact of launching an air strike against a sovereign state territory, neither does it feature any reaction to this of the UN Secretary-General or the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. At the previous briefing on this topic, we saw our Western colleagues carefully evade the issue of the air strike itself and focus only on Syrians relocating the cylinders. Even if it were the case – and the Syrian delegation provided an exhaustive explanation of that at the previous meeting – would it justify the use of armed force against a sovereign state?
We suggest that everyone should think carefully of who would benefit from this air strike and from eliminating material evidence that was crucial for the Douma investigation. Logic tells us it would not be Syrians who, just like Russia, call on the OPCW Technical Secretariat to conduct a thorough investigation. Whilst those who are not interested in an investigation and who do not welcome the “unsuitable” evidence of manipulations in drafting the infamous FFM report would very much benefit from disappearance of such evidence.
What is striking is that the report is overloaded with details for such technical aspects as visa-related issues. It might seem that in the absence of real proofs of Damascus violating the CWC, the Technical Secretariat clings to routine nuances of bilateral interaction, trying to present them as example of Syria’s “intractability”. What’s more, report passages that address it clearly lag behind the real developments and miss the counter-moves of the Syrian side, thus creating an impression that it is Syria that should be blamed for delays. For example, not a word is said about the fact that it was the OPCW Director-General who postponed regular consultations with the DAT. As an explanation, he said publicly that summertime in Syria was “uncomfortable” for deploying inspectors in the field.
Let me stress that the Syrian side, despite unprecedented pressure and the policy of double standards adopted by the Technical Secretariat, continues to uphold faithfully its obligations under the CWC, does not refrain from cooperation and demonstrates political willingness to set forth dialogue with the leadership of the TS – at a high level, for that matter. Our Syrian colleagues are ready to share the latest updates on all these episodes with the Council today.
It is at the very least surprising that, when elaborating on some of the anti-Syrian conclusions, the report cites Director-General Arias speaking at the Security Council in June this year. We repeatedly highlighted numerous inconsistencies and apparent distortions in his remarks. To that end, we circulated documents S/2021/641 and S/2021/588 in the Security Council. We invite you to closely study them. Also, we expect the leadership of the OPCW to provide detailed explanations during the next briefing at the Council which we hope will happen soon.
The root cause of all current problems of the Syrian chemical file is that the Western colleagues have long turned the file into an instrument to punish the Damascus authorities that they find unwanted. So there is no point trying to find any connection between it and use or non-use of chemical weapons on the Syrian territory or issues of CW non-proliferation.
Unfortunately, the Technical Secretariat is becoming a conductor of this unscrupulous policy, thus turning the organization from an independent and impartial guardian of the CWC into a tool that some states use to punish those who they do not like or who does not let them pursue their geopolitical goals. This dangerous inclination towards politicization of the OPCW becomes more conspicuous from month to month.
The number of gross and deliberate violations of the CWC by the Secretariat is steadily growing. The most vivid example is manipulations during the preparation of the notorious Douma 2018 report. Apparently, the leadership of the OPCW Technical Secretariat is not going to correct them, despite the calls coming from the international community and member states. The activity of the illegitimate Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), which was established following a decision that was pushed through the OPCW Executive Council in violation of the principle of consensus and article 15 of the CWC, runs in the same vein. IIT’s final “products” can stand up to no criticism due to political bias, factual falsity, and technical illiteracy, whereas its methods (just like the methods of the FFM) violate the CWC in terms of rules of investigations, in particular those applying to collection and secure preservation of evidence. The IIT does not seek to trace back the real chain of events. It would rather try and make the events fit into the conclusion about Damascus’s guilt. In other words, it seeks to fulfil a political order. That is why we reject the conclusions of the existing IIT reports (on Al-Lataminah and Saraquib), and we will also reject any products the IIT might come up with in the future.
It were the biased conclusions of the IIT that became the basis for the punitive decision to incapacitate Syria at the OPCW. It was the first time such a step was taken with regard to a sovereign state which complied with the CWC faithfully.
Let me stress that the April decision of the States-Parties Conference was not an expression of OPCW member states’ collective will, as our Western colleagues strive to depict it. The decision was blatantly pushed through by Western delegations in violation of the CWC provisions (it was put forward at the Conference without prior consideration by the Executive Council) and the principle of consensus. In fact, less than a half of OPCW member states voted in favor of this decision. As far as the UNSC – only six Western states of the current composition of the Council supported it. The others either voted against or abstained. A number of former Council members adhered to the same position.
Technical Secretariat’s policy of double standards clearly manifests itself when it comes to Syria’s remaining initial declaration issues. Damascus joined the CWC amidst extremely complicated extraordinary conditions of military and political instability, and in spite of that faithfully implemented all the obligations, yet it is confronted with unreasonably high demands, and artificial agitation is created around this episode. At the same time, the OPCW Technical Secretariat “let loose” the situation with Libya, where around 500 undeclared projectiles were discovered in 2012; and with Iraq, where the initial declaration was based solely on UN documents, with no one to confirm it.
The stance taken by the current leadership of the OPCW Technical Secretariat poses a serious threat to the OPCW authority, casts a shadow over its status as a pillar of WMD non-proliferation, and calls into question the ability of the organization to implement its mandate effectively. As a responsible state that stood at the origins of OPCW, Russia is extremely bothered by the current situation. Unfortunately, we see no sign of improvement so far.