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29 June 201818:40

Remarks by Head of the Russian delegation Georgy Kalamanov during the 4th Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), The Hague, June 26-28, 2018

1258-29-06-2018

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Mr Chairman,

Mr Director General, delegates,

Russia consistently speaks out against the use of chemical weapons by anyone anywhere and under any circumstances. Our country’s overall commitment to the aims and tasks of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is affirmed by the early conclusion of the national programme to eliminate our chemical arsenals in 2017, three years ahead of schedule.

As regards the agenda of the Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the presented documents, we deem it necessary to say the following.

We have always supported unbiased and independent investigations of incidents involving the use of chemical weapons. Russia was one of the originators of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism for Syria (JIM), created on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2235. In 2016, we voted to prolong its mandate (UNSC Resolution 2319).

During the mechanism’s operation, fundamental flaws were detected in its work. Investigations were held remotely, without visiting locations where incidents took place; basic norms of the Chemical Weapons Convention on collecting and preserving physical evidence were ignored; tendentious information presented by the opposition was taken at face value; the information from the Syrian authorities was not taken into account. As a result, we doubted the accuracy and impartiality of its conclusions and did not consent to extend the mechanism’s mandate.

Thus, the issue of reforming the Joint Investigative Mechanism needed to be addressed in real earnest. However, the joint Bolivian-Russian-Chinese draft resolution that we proposed at the UNSC, which aimed to prolong the mechanism’s mandate and raise its work to the high standards of the CWC, was blocked by our western partners, including UNSC permanent members. Therefore, it is them who bear full responsibility for this mechanism no longer existing.  

We cannot comprehend the attempts being made to vest the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has a solely technical nature, with totally alien attributive functions, in circumvention of the UN Security Council and without introducing amendments to the Chemical Weapons Convention, as stipulated in its Article XV. In fact, this is about making the OPCW, which is designed to provide technical assistance to the State Parties in fulfilling the convention’s requirements, into a quasi-prosecutor, police and forensic structure.   

Mr Chairman,

We would like to discuss separately item 12 of the British draft that deals with the Salisbury incident or the Skripal case. This incident was too cynically inspired by London against Russia, actively supported by the West and enthusiastically brought to the absurd by virtue of Atlantic solidarity. According to item 12 of the draft in the British interpretation, the materials of a report by the group on the technical assistance visit (No. TAV/02/18 оf 12.04.2018) confirm (provide an evidence base for) the conclusions based on the results of Britain’s domestic inquiry.  

However, the operating instructions (VER/ODV/79356/18 of March 16, 2018) endorsed by the Director-General of the Technical Secretariat have not been carried out in full. In this connection, the submitted results cannot confirm the report’s conclusion on the use of a nerve gas because they do not contain specific information on the level of acetyl cholinesterase from the moment of hospitalisation, the clinical picture, or medical treatment, especially as regards the prescribed doses of antidotes, such as oximes.

The victims’ transition from a lengthy unconscious serious condition to active consciousness and apperception within a short period of time does not correspond to the damage done by anticholinesterase chemical agents. Even if the victim survives by taking modern antidotes, he or she would need long-term treatment from the consequences of the intoxicants.

During “the technical assistance” visit, experts were oriented by Britain to identify and confirm that the victims were intoxicated by the only toxic chemical with the structure suggested by Britain in advance. In this context “the technical assistance mission” carried out in full a request of British Prime Minister Theresa May (document EC-87/NAT.7 of 14.03.2018) to confirm the results of the analysis made by Britain.

However, in accordance with the provision of item 38 of CWC Article VIII, confirmation of the results of the analysis conducted by a State Party does not amount to technical assistance.

Toxic chemicals in the Novichok family are the prerogative of Western countries (as is described in the national document of the Russian Federation of April 18, 2018 EC-M-59/NAT.4; reference to https://www.opcw.org/fileadmin/OPCW/EC/M-59/en/ecm59nat04_e_.pdf).

The CWC States Parties have never committed themselves to the use of the OPCW as an instrument of attributing responsibility for violations – neither when they joined it, nor later when they ratified it.

It is also obvious that such changes are impossible without substantial amendments to the CWC. Such plans can be carried out only under a CWC procedure – the convocation of a special CSP session on amendments. The attempts to adopt this decision in this regular special CSP session are simply illegitimate.

This is an obvious attempt to distort the OPCW mandate and undermine its legal foundations. This is a destructive approach that we resolutely reject. Apart from international courts, the UN Security Council is the only international body that can decide who is guilty and how to bring it to task when it comes to UN member-states.

Therefore, the British-proposed CSP draft attacks the exclusive prerogatives of the UN Security Council and leads to the undermining of the OPCW authority and the integrity of the CWC. We suggest seriously considering the prospect that awaits us if such resolutions are carried out, and realise responsibility for the future of the OPCW and the CWC in this moment of truth.

There is a threat that this may cause the failure of the global non-proliferation regime or even the downfall of the entire international security system that was established after WWII, which is based on the central role of the UN and its Security Council in international affairs. Such a course is fraught with unpredictable consequences, especially now that new generations of nuclear missile weapons have been developed. People of good intent should unite in order to block these adventurist plans.

Instead of proposing destructive initiatives, we suggest to our partners working to consolidate the OPCW potential in a bid to counter the chemical threat, conduct fully valid inquiries into any suspected use of chemical weapons and prevent such incidents. It is primarily important to strictly observe all rules in identifying chemical attack incidents. Regrettably, the fundamental method of collecting and preserving material evidence (chain of custody) is being used very selectively.

Mr Chairman,

The two latest reports issued by the Fact-
Finding Mission (on al-Latamneh and Saraqib) are typical examples of this approach. For some reason, the main source of information for the experts was the pseudo-humanitarian organisation the White Helmets, notorious for their provocations.

In this context, we should mention the interview with Member of the British House of Lords Baroness Caroline Cox of June 21, 2018 after her trip to Syria, in which she said, and I am quoting, “I must express  appreciation of the support by Russia to help get rid of ISIS and all the other Islamist religious groups from the larger part of that country’s territory. We spoke to a huge number of people in different parts of Syria and all of them were against jihadists and their atrocities. I met a woman in the Latakia province, right before whose eyes Islamists first cut off her husband’s head and then her son’s. She told me: ‘During a war people die of shells but where the gunmen are they cut off people’s heads. We do not want this.’”

I should note that Baroness Cox submitted a relevant report to her colleagues in the House of Lords, titled Voices from Syria.

The evidence base for claims that Syrian government forces used chemical weapons was formed with the help of the White Helmets’ so-called evidence. At the same time, FFM experts have never been to the places where these incidents are reported to have happened and all the samples from al-Latamneh and Saraqib were received from the White Helmets. Can we really say in this case that the investigation was conducted without bias and according to the CWC rules?  In this connection, we also welcome the US Department of State decision to freeze funding for the White Helmets.

We suggest concentrating on urgent, important matters, such as building confidence in the conclusions of various field missions, first of all, the FFM. The way to do this is to bring the activities of such structures into strict compliance with the Convention’s provisions and with the Technical Secretariat’s internal regulations.

It is necessary to settle once for all that the procedure for collecting and maintaining chain of custody established by the Organisation should not be used selectively but in all investigated cases without exception. It is impermissible to ignore this principle in some situations, and in others to scrupulously cling to each comma in the governing documents.

It is important to adopt a decision so that these missions are staffed taking into account the best practices existing in other international organisations (a balanced staff of experts, including geographical representation), above all, in the UN.

We would like to remind you that in 2013, the final report at the Third Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to Review the Operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention proclaimed the unanimous determination of the States Parties to step up their efforts to prevent the possible malicious use of toxic chemicals by non-state actors, such as terrorists.

In this connection, the Russian delegation has repeatedly called on the States Parties for bona fide cooperation, data exchange and consultations in order to prevent incidents involving toxic chemicals, their polticisation and subsequent tensions.

We have repeatedly expressed concern over the fact that the use of chemical substances with severe toxic characteristics still remains a reality despite significant efforts by the OPCW and the enormous contribution of all its member states in terms of complying with their  CWC commitments.

Russia fully supports UN General Assembly resolution 56/1 (2001) and UN Security Council resolutions 1368 (2001) and 1373 (2001) regarding the terrorist attacks perpetrated on September 11, 2001, and has repeatedly urged the State Parties to honour  their obligations under the Convention: to destroy chemical weapons, prevent their reproduction and the malicious use of chemicals and technology, and do the utmost to act in line with clauses 1 and 2 of Article VII of the Convention.

These are the problems that the Russian draft resolution of the Conference of the States Parties is supposed to address. It contains clear-cut milestones for joint efforts based on common sense and concern for the fate of the OPCW. We hope that it can be adopted as the groundwork for discussion.

We believe that the States Parties should eventually put aside their ambitions and unite for the sake of preserving the integrity of the organisation and preventing a split.

Mr Chairperson,

We ask that this statement be distributed as an official document of the Special Session of the Fourth Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on both the internal and external OPCW websites.

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