At the outset, let me highlight that now all delegations of the Conference of the CWC States Parties are watching what can be called a final act of a performance, directed by our Western colleagues and staged in the Hague. In two weeks, the 25th session of the CWC Conference will resume its work. For several months on end, the Conference has been home to attempts to push through an unprecedented decision that should incapacitate Syria in the OPCW. This draft decision was introduced to the Conference counter to the CWC norms and without prior consideration by the Executive Council. This proposed incapacitation would deprive Syria of its right to vote at the Conference of CWC States Parties and in the Executive Council, be elected to the Council, and host any events related to the Conference, the Executive Council, and its subsidiary mechanisms.
I will tell you frankly: it was clear from the very beginning that this entire idea had been premeditated. This “theater performance” had several acts. First, in violation of the longstanding norms and practices of the OPCW (first of all the principle of consensus), the Secretariat created the illegitimate Investigation and Identification Team (IIT). The IIT defied the principles of investigation, including the so-called “chain of custody” and produced a report rich in factual and technical mistakes. The report accuses Syrians of having used chemical weapons on two occasions. This report was well and truly beaten by the independent experts. We shared our detailed argumentation on that matter in the General Assembly and the Security Council as early as in June last year. However, the leadership of the Technical Secretariat remains deaf to this criticism. Apparently, it is a sign that prior to the grand theatrical finale, the IIT will give us yet another surprise by reporting another “pseudo investigation” and its anti-Syrian results. We have little doubt about it. Neither do we doubt that our Western colleagues would rush to interpret that unscrupulous product as alleged proof of the CW use by Damascus. Let me discourage you by saying that it would truly prove only one thing. It would prove that your methods of besmirching Damascus without providing any substantiated or trustworthy evidence have remained pretty much the same and that you would hardly score any extra points on that.
Anyway, in summer 2020 Western delegations referred to the aforementioned politically biased and unconvincing IIT report to push through the OPCW Executive Council a knowingly unrealistic ultimatum for Syria, which demanded to declare chemical weapons and its production facilities that Syria simply did not have. It is obvious that these demands cannot be met. What comes next is a mere technicality. The Director General ascertains Syria’s alleged incompliance with an Executive Council decision. Now the Conference of the CWC States Parties is offered to “punish” Damascus by incapacitating Syria in the OPCW.
Nevertheless, the Syrian authorities keep cooperating with the OPCW all this time – despite the colossal pressure, terrible accusations coming from the Western colleagues, blatant manipulations on the part of the Technical Secretariat, to say nothing of the emergency conditions of the pandemic.
The current report of the Secretary-General is another proof of this. I would like to stress that its paras. 11, 12 address the consultations that the Declaration Assessment Team (DAT) and the relevant Syrian authorities held in February. These contacts included visits to the facilities, meetings with the Syrian experts, and surveys. The Syrian side provided explanation with regard to all the “outstanding issues”. Unfortunately, the response was that the Syrian initial declaration was “incomplete”, “imperfect”, etc. But still, the fact remains – the dialogue is underway, and there is progress in Syria’s interaction with the OPCW, i.a. in terms of the initial declaration.
Besides, as we learnt from the report of the OPCW Director General at the March session of the Executive Council, the pandemic brought to a standstill almost all inspection activities of the Organization. For example, the visit of the Executive Council to the United States has been rescheduled twice and is now expected no sooner than in 2022. The OPCW made only 5 country visits to the states that declared discovery of some old stockpiles. Syria is almost the only country with which the TS maintains regular dialogue! How can it be the main “violator”, as our Western colleagues would try to assert?
I urge you to give it a thought – if Syria can no longer take part in the OPCW decision-making, what is the point for Damascus to keep cooperating with the Organization? What is the ultimate goal, after all? Is it to “crush” Syria as was the case with Iraq after the US Secretary of State here at the UN personally promoted a fake about Iraq possessing WMDs, or is it to make sure that nobody on the Syrian soil has any chemical weapons?
Let me avail of this meeting of the Security Council, which covers broad public, to call on all delegations, both here and in the Hague, to act responsibly and stand up against the proposed draft decision, as it threatens to undermine the authority of the OPCW, and the Security Council which is responsible for the implementation of resolution 2118. Neither OPCW nor any other respectful venue must turn into a tool to “punish the unwanted” by throwing at them baseless allegations of CW usage. Any country could end up in Syria’s place, should our Western colleagues decide to use the “CW leverage” to pressurize them. By rejecting Syria’s incapacitation in the OPCW, you will reject double standards and protect the equitable world order, which has no place for the dictate of force. All states must be equal in terms of upholding the international law.
I stress that Russia, as a responsible OPCW member state, in strongest terms condemns usage of chemical weapons by whoever, wherever, and for whatever purposes. We are determined to have all developments clarified, and both us and our Syrian colleagues have numerous facts at our disposal that point at the usage or attempted usage of chemical weapons by the so-called Syrian opposition. As the UN Secretariat is perfectly aware, Damascus shared relevant findings with the OPCW. But in order to find out the truth, we need the OPCW Technical Secretariat to do what it is supposed to: unbiased monitoring of states’ compliance with the CWC. Only then will we be able to expect professional and impartial investigations from it. The TS must not create inflated demands for one country, while turning a blind eye to the shortcomings of others in analogous situations, and ignoring questions to non-state actors that inevitably pop up in this context. Unfortunately, the Technical Secretariat still has a long way to go until it embarks on truly unbiased work.
Besides, the bulk of proofs of direct forgeries, manipulations and internal violations in OPCW TS with regard to Syria’s chemical file has reached a critical mark. It is blatant violations during investigations of incidents in Khan Sheikhoun (April 2017) and Douma (April 2018). It is testimonies of former OPCW employees about the FFM falsifying its conclusions under the pressure of Western states. It is the practice of oppressing and intimidating the “dissidents”, who refused to take part in this forgery. I will not cite all these facts again, because we gave a detailed account of this in our earlier statements. In December 2020, we submitted a list of questions to the Director General of the OPCW, Mr. Fernando Arias, but got no answers to any of them either during the UNSC meeting or afterwards. Our Western colleagues like to underscore the need for transparency in the OPCW work and to commend the TS leadership for upholding this principle. Do you think it is transparent to have Ms. Nakamitsu trying to give answers to the concrete questions which are posed by a UNSC member state and which have to do with the topics discussed at the Hague platform? Is it transparent to have Ms.Nakamitsu trying to answer to them, rather than the head of the specialized mechanism?
In the meantime, the number of questions is growing, and they are coming not only from states. Let me give you a recent example. A group of prominent public actors addressed Director General Arias in a letter published by well-known NGO “CourageFoundation” on 8 February, which calls on the Technical Secretariat to investigate numerous malfunctions, including reported falsifications in the Douma report. We call on the TS to give a public response to this letter, because silence and understatement can only foster suspicions that the TS might have things to conceal. The fact that DG Arias hides behind the back of Ms.Nakamitsu does not add to the authority of the OPCW in light of the accusations that I mentioned earlier.
I anticipate traditional remarks from our Western colleagues blaming Russia for attempts to shatter and undermine the authority of the OPCW. These allegations are not backed up by anything. On the contrary, Russia struggles to revive the good name of the Organization, seeks answers to the questions that are relevant to everyone. The Security Council cannot afford being a silent witness of how one of the pillars of WMD proliferation gets ruined by politicizing. It is our shared goal to work towards restoring trust in the OPCW and recovering its authority. We count on support of all UNSC members on that matter, i.a. in terms of response to the anticipated “political commissioning” of the IIT, pending vote in the Hague, and other devastating steps that might follow to undermine the OPCW and WMD non-proliferation regime. If Syria’s opponents (who at the same time oppose real eradication of CW at its entire territory) achieve their goal, we will be living through very hard times, promising no good to the OPCW and the international cooperation in this and many other areas.
Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations