11 November 201712:32

Comment by the Information and Press Department on the interview with The New York Times by Edmond Mulet, head of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism for Syria


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We took notice of the revelations presented by Mr Edmond Mulet, head of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) on the use of chemical weapon in Syria, in his November 9 interview with The New York Times. We think their tone and, most importantly, the substance of invectives against Russia, in which he indulged, are unacceptable for a high-ranking international official. It is clear to us that in this way he is obviously trying to save his strongly tarnished reputation. As for the essence of what was said by Mr Mulet, we would like to note the following:

During the September 7 consultations in Moscow, which took place at the initiative of Mr Mulet himself, and after Russian diplomats subsequently contacted him in New York, no one from Russia attempted to impose on the JIM any conclusions that would favour Russia. In fact, in reply to an official request by the JIM heads, the Russian party only offered considerations on how best to organise JIM operations with consideration for the miscalculations made in the course of the investigation. Specifically, it was suggested that Mr Mulet should not focus on any particular version but pay full attention to all of them. The main recommendation, however, was that he act in full conformity with the standards of the Convention for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. This primarily implied sending experts to both the chemical incident site in Khan Shaykhun and the Shayrat air base to take samples and clarify the circumstances of this high-profile case so as to identify those responsible for this crime. There was still time for that, but Mr Mulet preferred a remote investigation. Moreover, he actually forbade the specialists, who did visit the base in early October, to take samples.

Instead, he concentrated all his efforts on “substantiating” the version that Washington and other Western capitals had described as the “only possible one” even before the investigation began. We are referring to the version that this was a Syrian air force attack with the use of a chemical munition. The JIM-collected facts were being made to fit this conclusion. The JIM report outlined all other possible scenarios in an offhanded manner and actually disregarded them, including the version that the Khan Sheykhun incident was a stage-managed affair.

This selective approach and disdainful attitude to CPCW standards played a bad turn on Mr Mulet. The report he issued is characterised by a low professional level verging on dilettantism. Its main conclusion – on Damascus being supposedly to blame for using sarin – proved totally untenable. Russian experts clearly demonstrated this based on facts and figures during an interagency briefing at the Russian Foreign Ministry on November 2 of this year.

It could be expected that Mr Mulet, given that his professional honour is at stake, would try to disprove the Russian experts’ assessments. But no, he did not even mention them as he was presenting his report to the UN Security Council on November 7 of this year. And this is easy to understand: judging by all appearances, he has nothing to object to. Instead, he was singing praises to himself, time and again repeating like an incantation that the JIM was “independent, unbiased and highly professional.” As if he was trying to convince himself and anybody else.

In any case, we believe that the Russian expert evaluation should be subject to detailed consideration. It is actually objective, based, unlike the JIM report, on the laws of physics and ballistics and on a technical analysis. These calculations were circulated in New York on November 9 of this year as an official document of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly. If Mr Mulet does not agree with them, he, instead of engaging in insinuations in contacts with the press, must offer convincing and well-grounded objections.           

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