Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by the Foreign Ministry in connection with attempts to distort Russia’s position regarding the vote on a Draft UN Security Council Resolution to Extend the Mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism

The Foreign Ministry expected that a veto on the US draft resolution to extend the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations on October 24 would be immediately followed by harsh attacks against Russia by a number of western countries. The extent of their brazenness is off the scale. We are indifferent to what those who have once again “proven” themselves in distorting our approach think about their own reputation. However, they need to be reminded about what is acceptable in international affairs and what it would be better to refrain from.

For instance, the White House press secretary went so far as to say that Moscow endorses “the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons against innocent women and children.” That was echoed by the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, who alleged that Russia “once again sides with the dictators and terrorists who use these weapons.”

We urge our US colleagues to observe at least a degree of decorum. In civilised international relations, an opponent’s position must not be so grossly distorted with the only aim of “exposing” and casting him in an unfavourable light. Surely, the White House and the State Department understand that what we opposed was not extending the JIM’s mandate but making a hasty decision on the issue, without taking into account the JIM’s upcoming report for the past year, about which little is known so far. It would have been unprofessional and irresponsible of us, following the US lead, to recklessly rubberstamp a far-reaching decision without even trying to analyse the situation. It is has to be analysed, and analysed in depth, and here is the reason why.

The use of sarin in Syria’s Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017 and the subsequent events revealed serious system-wide problems in the work of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) and the JIM. These include selective implementation of mandates, failure or inability to use the entire array of investigative methods envisioned by the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, de-facto refusal to conduct an on-site investigation and even, as it turned out recently, an attempt – in the case of the FFM – to mislead the international community regarding the possibility of safe access to Khan Sheikhoun. Clearly, if we really want to establish those responsible for using chemical weapons, then these fundamental flaws must be rectified as soon as possible. However, it seems that the situation prevailing now suits our Western colleagues perfectly. What’s more, they are desperately working to ensure that everything remains as it is. And that is because their aim is not to establish the truth but to use international agencies for stepping up pressure on Damascus.

Back in April, when Russia was persistently trying to ensure that inspectors be immediately sent to Khan Sheikhoun and Shayrat air base, where the sarin used in Khan Sheikhoun had been purportedly stored, those countries blocked the relevant draft decisions that we had put forward at the UN Security Council and the OPCW Executive Council. There is good reason to believe that subsequently, the same countries exerted intense pressure on the FFM and the JIM to ensure that their representatives did not go to the aforementioned sites on the Syrian territory. They were well positioned to have their way, considering that contrary to international rules and norms, the FFM is headed by two British nationals.

Another form of pressure on investigative agencies and an attempt to “indoctrinate” them were the British, French and Turkish national reports stating categorically that the Syrian Air Force was responsible for the use of sarin in Khan Sheikhoun. The fact that these countries’ intelligence agencies took samples at the site of the incident problem-free shows how much at ease their operatives feel in territories controlled by the most radical jihadist groups. Nevertheless, those countries declined to help FFM representatives visit the site of the incident. For instance, the British categorically refused our request to share details of the national investigation.

All of this is no accident. What we have here is a consistent and highly questionable policy by those who are now trying to pin labels on us. Tellingly, all of Russia’s attempts over the past several years to elicit the UN Security Council’s response to crimes committed by terrorists with the use of chemical weapons have been invariably blocked by the Western “troika.” This verges on outright shielding of terrorists.

Contrary to the mendacious statements coming from Washington, London and a number of other capitals, there is absolutely no reason to dramatise the situation around the JIM. Its current mandate expires on November 16. More than three weeks is quite enough to study the JIM’s upcoming report and decide on the mechanism’s future.

We reaffirm our intention, soon after receiving the report, to submit specific proposals for the Security Council’s consideration on what should be done to ensure, in deed, not in word, genuine independence, impartiality and professionalism in investigating crimes with the use of toxic agents.