Statement by H.E. Ambassador A.V.Shulgin Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OPCW at the 97th session of the Executive Council (General debate)
Distinguished Mr Director-General,
Distinguished Mr Chairperson,
This is the first meeting of the Executive Council since the election of the distinguished Ambassador of Morocco Abdelouahab Bellouki as Chairman. Allow me, Mr. Ambassador, to congratulate you on your appointment and wish you every success. I would like to assure you of our full support and readiness for constructive engagement. I hope that thanks to your many years of diplomatic experience we will be able to take steps to lead the OPCW out of the protracted crisis in which it has found itself.
We can also see that with a steady increase in the number of people vaccinated against the coronavirus, the Government of the Netherlands is gradually lifting its various restrictions. In this regard, we would like to believe that future meetings and the Conference of the States Parties will proceed more or less normally and, most importantly, with the participation of specialists from the capitals who provide so much-needed expert support.
Now let us turn directly to the themes of the current session of the OPCW Executive Council. Naturally, we cannot help being concerned about what is happening in the Hague in terms of attribution. All the activities of the special branch of the Technical Secretariat – the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) - are being conducted covertly, behind closed doors. As before, we refuse to accept this. The Group was established in violation of the Convention, in effect by a minority vote and in circumvention of international law, and its activities encroach on the exclusive competence of the UN Security Council.
The IIT produces reports that are questionable in terms of common sense and scientific and technical facts, drawing conclusions along the lines of "there are reasonable grounds to believe". On the basis of these conclusions, a vote was taken to impose a deliberately unrealistic ultimatum on Syria, followed by a decision to suppress its rights. Thus, an extremely dangerous precedent was set in which any State that is a full-fledged member of the CWC can be obstructed on the basis of unsubstantiated conclusions made by the entity that has been set up in circumvention of the Convention.
Moreover, these reports are based on the conclusions made by another special mission of the Technical Secretariat, the OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM), whose work methods also raise a number of questions. We believe it extremely important that this structure should act in strict conformity with the provisions of the CWC Verification Annex and the basic principles of the OPCW. We call for the working methods of the FFM to be brought in line with the provisions of the Convention and for a possible revision of its terms of reference which were agreed a while ago bilaterally between the Technical Secretariat and Damascus.
The interaction between the authorities in Damascus and the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team should not deviate from its purely technical nature. One cannot ignore Damascus' full readiness to work closely in this format. Concentrating solely on the negative aspects not only fails to correspond to the reality, but also prevents us from effectively addressing the common challenges that we face. It is necessary to focus on eliminating as soon as possible the issues that are long overdue and that have no prospect of comprehensive resolution. All the more so because the demands placed on Syria go far beyond the commitments of the States Parties to the CWC.
Some States Parties take advantage of the controversial nature of these issues, doing everything to perpetuate the split in the OPCW or even exacerbate it, as they wish to continue to use the Organization for their geopolitical interests. Such a destructive position and a politicized agenda imposed by any and all means have nothing to do with the predominantly technical nature of the Organization.
We would like to thank Director-General Fernando Arias for his participation in the UN Security Council meeting on resolution 2118. We hope that this practice will continue. At the same time, we cannot but note that in his statement, when highlighting the work of the OPCW special missions, the Director-General allowed a number of inaccuracies, to put it mildly. For example, when he assured the UN Security Council that none of the 193 States Parties to the СWC have challenged the findings of the FFM that chlorine was found on the scene of the attack in Douma, he at the same time said that no member of the Executive Council rejected the report on the chemical incident in question.
After all, to establish whether or not there has been a chemical attack, it is necessary to understand how chlorine had got to the scene in the first place, rather than whether or not it was present there.
We urge that such mistakes be avoided in the future so as not to mislead the Security Council.
Also in terms of attribution I would like to say the following. As we know, the traditional process of agreeing on a budget document will soon begin. This time we will be considering it for the first time in the context of the decision to move to a biennial financial cycle. We urge the Technical Secretariat to listen to different opinions and return to the practice of preparing separate draft decisions. This applies both to the IIТ, whose funding is spread across the so-called "omnibus" document, as well as for example the cash surplus. Such non-consensual items should be singled out so that all delegations could express their specific views on them. At present, the States Parties have no possibility to express their position on certain aspects and have to vote on the budget as a whole, while certain provisions raise serious questions, and most of the budget enjoys consensus support.
The application of the informal consultations algorithm to item 9 of the Executive Council's agenda – the draft report of the OPCW on the implementation of the Convention in 2020 – raises serious doubts. In our view, given a rather difficult situation in the Organization in recent years, documents of this kind require thorough consideration both in the Executive Council and at the Conference before they can be approved.
As you know, at the 25th Conference of the States Parties to the CWC, while taking the decision on the election of a new external auditor for the OPCW, it was agreed that the Organization's Executive Council should establish, as early as possible, a working group to develop modalities for determining the best candidate for the position in the future. We thank the Ambassador of Mexico for his initiative. We are convinced that its implementation will make an important contribution to the work of the Organization. We support this activity and intend to take an active part in the work of the group.
We consider that the amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the Advisory Body on Administrative and Financial Matters (ABAF) proposed by the co-authors are far from being consensual. We view the proposed amendments as an attempt to subordinate the activities of the independent body and control it. We believe that an early termination of appointment of an ABAF member can only be done either by the member himself/herself or by the state which nominated him/her. This item only aggravates the already tense atmosphere in the Organization. We call on the co-authors to withdraw this issue from the agenda.
We would also like to share our vision regarding the proposed decision on the tenure policy of the Organization. We understand that there is a very wide range of opinions on the draft decision being promoted. As far as we can see, no consensus has yet been reached. In our view, the initiative needs to be further elaborated at this point. It is important to strike a careful balance between preserving and strengthening the expertise of the OPCW and greater geographical representation, without skewing towards only certain countries. In this regard, we believe that it would be advisable to take things slowly and continue the discussion, naturally with due account of the views of all delegations in order to reach a mutually acceptable result.
As for the other items on the agenda, the Russian delegation will make statements at this session as the respective agenda items are addressed.
We request that this statement be circulated as an official document of the Ninety-Seventh Session of the Executive Council and that it be published on the Organization's public website and external server.
Thank you for your attention.