Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, at the closed VTC of UNSC Member-States on Syria’s Chemical Dossier

Mr. President,

Once again we would like to reiterate our position on the issue at hand – Syria’s chemical weapons (CW) program has been shut down, all its CW stockpiles have been eliminated and production capacities – destroyed. Damascus has no CW capacity nor any intent or capability to use it. This is further attested by the activities of the OPCW, which in the course of numerous intrusive inspections undertaken since October 2013 did not reveal any undeclared CW stockpiles.

Syria continues to provide full cooperation to the work of OPCW Missions, including inspection activities, which are conducted in accordance with the CWC.

From the very inception of the OPCW IIT in violation of Article XV of the CWC we had no doubts that its main purpose would be to whitewash the illegal acts of aggression against Syria in April 2017 and 2018. The recent Report of the IIT is a clear testimony to this intent.

As expected, instead of conducting a serious investigative work this team of so-called “experts” merely reduced themselves to echoing baseless accusations produced by some states. Although we should not be surprised, given the recent revelations on the “methods of work” of the OPCW Technical Secretariat.

 It is unbelievable, how a report can be prepared without even the slightest traces of due diligence. We feel compelled to fill in the blanks left out by the IIT with what seems to be malicious intent. We will distribute our initial assessment shortly, but make a few comments now. You may also learn more details about our initial assessment at our Mission’s website.

First – the Shayrat airbase was a location of one of the declared CW Production Facilities and was visited on multiple occasions by OPCW inspection teams. This Facility was certified by the OPCW Director-General as destroyed in full accordance with the CWC long before the events of 2017.

 Second – immediately after the illegal act of aggression in 2017 under the pretext that the Shayrat airbase was continued to be used as a CW Production Facility, Damascus on 11 April 2017 requested the OPCW Director-General to send a team of experts to conduct a thorough inspection of the airbase without any time limits and with guarantees of full and unfettered access, including for the purposes of sample collection. The previous leadership of the OPCW Technical Secretariat disregarded its obligations under the CWC and ignored this request from Damascus.

Third – Russia and Iran on 19 April 2017 presented a draft decision to the OPCW Executive Council, which would formally mandate the Director-General to conduct the inspection of Shayrat airbase. This proposal was voted down by well-known countries and their supporters for no other obvious reason but to obstruct any coherent investigation of their own accusations.

All these events took place within a month from the incidents in Al-Lathamna and Khan-Sheikhoun, when an inspection of the Shayrat airbase could have provided a definitive answer to these accusations. Despite clear relevance of the above-mentioned facts, the Team not only did not take them into consideration while wrongfully placing the blame on the Syrian Government, but even failed to mention them in its report at all.

Although our experts are still studying the report it is already pretty clear that the IIT did not imply any lessons learned from the deficiencies of the FFM and JIM and still demonstrates their faulty methods of work: materials and evidence are collected remotely, mainly from groups opposing the Syrian Government; official Damascus's information about the opposition's chemical crimes is ignored; investigations are conducted in flagrant violation of the provisions of the CWC, without respecting the key principle of fulfilling procedures to ensure preservation of physical evidence (so-called “chain of custody”), which, inter alia, requires  the evidence to be collected on site and exclusively by OPCW specialists;  absence of adequate criteria to select witnesses and assess the admissibility of their testimony.

To sum up, given the clear bias of the IIT report, the illicit nature of the Team itself, recent malpractices in the OPCW Technical Secretariat and continued intent by certain countries to conceal their information on the so-called undeclared Syrian CW Production Facilities and Stockpiles we will continue to proceed from our assessment, which I reiterated at the beginning of my statement.

Thank you.