Statement by the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OPCW A.Shulgin at the Second Part of the Twenty-Fifth Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the CWC under agenda subitem 9 d) "Addressing the threat from chemical weapons use", The Hague, April 20. 2021
We would like to comment on the politically motivated draft decision entitled "Addressing the Possession and Use of Chemical Weapons by
the Syrian Arab Republic," which was submitted to the Conference by a group of cosponsors.
This decision draws exclusively on the tendentious conclusions made by the "attribution mechanism" of the Technical Secretariat – the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT). This illegitimate entity was established contrary to the technical nature of the Organization, and its powers go far beyond the scope of the Chemical Weapons Convention, infringing on the exclusive competence of the UN Security Council.
The States Parties that devised and eventually pushed through the establishment of the attribution mechanism within the OPCW never intended to deal honestly and in good faith with the episodes of alleged use of chemical weapons in the SAR. Their main goal has been and remains to lend credibility to their disinformation, using the authority of the OPCW, and "rubber-stamp" accusations against the legitimate Syrian authorities, which they arrogantly call "the regime." Despite all their efforts, they failed to weaken and bring down the Syrian authorities "on the ground," so they try to discredit them by such Jesuitic methods.
In recent years, the Organization's work under the Syrian chemical dossier has been extremely politicized, and mutual trust has fallen catastrophically. Syria's openness to cooperation with the Secretariat and its willingness to seek solutions to even the most difficult issues are simply ignored. Instead, those who stubbornly refuse to remove the Syrian chemical dossier from the agenda in order to continue using it as leverage over Damascus keep tightening the pressure, further adding to tensions.
Such ill intentions are implemented through special missions operating within the Secretariat. We never question the fact that they are staffed by real professionals committed to performing the duties entrusted to them in good faith. However, as we can judge from the conclusion of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on the high-profile incidents that took place in Syria's Douma in April 2018, the investigation has dismissed many well-founded conclusions and assessments by honest inspectors, with official reports being falsified to suit blatant political orders. The flawed principles of work under the Syrian chemical dossier are further illustrated by the unsubstantiated reports on the chemical incidents in Al-Ltamenah and the surrounding areas such as Khan Shaykhun, Saraqib and other settlements.
The United States and its allies have repeatedly claimed that Damascus retained part of its chemical weapons stockpile. This is allegedly indicated by the findings of the Declaration Assessment Team (DAT). They are presented as a given, supposedly demonstrating violations of obligations under the CWC. This is a completely distorted picture. The DAT's reports never mentioned the discovery of undeclared chemical munitions or production facilities in Syria; they only covered those aspects of the former chemical weapons programme that remain to be addressed by the Technical Secretariat and need to be clarified. Moreover, double standards are being widely applied: we all know examples where problems with the CWC initial declarations were resolved rather quickly and without any artificial burdens, but for some reason this approach does not apply to Syria.
Attempts to accuse Damascus of violating the CWC sometimes take completely unacceptable forms. For example, consider the air strikes launched by the United States, France and Britain in April 2018 to destroy a facility at the Barzah Scientific Studies and Research Centre in retaliation for the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian troops in Douma. As it turned out, this was a gross provocation by the White Helmets. However, in order to justify aggression against a sovereign nation, it was stated at the highest political level that the target in Barzah, Syria, had been destroyed because it was deemed to be part of an active military chemical programme. But this is a cynical fiction from beginning to end. The results of several OPCW inspections showed that no prohibited activities had taken place there. The three-member coalition simply ignored all OPCW assessments and barbarically destroyed an important economic facility in Syria for no reason at all.
As for the IIT, whose first report on the incidents in Al-Ltamenah was taken as a basis for the preparation of the draft decision being discussed today, its staff members make no secret that their task is to provide assistance not only to the governing bodies of the OPCW, but also to "courts and tribunals at the national, regional or international level," including the notorious "International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Investigating Crimes in Syria." This is yet another grave violation of CWC provisions that essentially leads to the transformation of the OPCW into an instrument for the United States and its allies to exert political pressure on undesirable governments.
The professional competence of the team of quasi-prosecutors raises legitimate concerns. It has neither trained chemists nor experts in chemical weapons, ammunition, ballistics, or engineering. They have never visited Syria, as the Syrian authorities have good reasons not to cooperate with this entity or recognize its legitimacy. The Group, composed predominantly of representatives of Western countries, relies fully on outside sources and assessments by invited pseudo-independent experts, whose names are kept in secret and whose qualification and impartiality are impossible to assess.
The IIT's investigation of the supposed chemical incidents in Al-Ltamenah was based on the conclusions of questionable reports by the FFM, which had also investigated these episodes remotely and only long after the events. At the time, we gave a detailed evaluation of those documents. All their conclusions are based on data received six months after the events, on commission from NGOs that are in opposition or hostile to the official Damascus. Can we trust such conclusions that, apart from lacking due expert assessment, were drawn from an investigation that violated the established norms of the Convention, even though we are in every way being led to believe the opposite? How is it even possible to use an unconvincing statement – "there are reasonable grounds to believe" – as a reason for punitive actions against a full-fledged State Party to the CWC?
We are increasingly hearing statements regarding a disinformation campaign to discredit the OPCW, allegedly initiated by Russia. How can we even talk about sabotaging the Organization if we have consistently advocated for honest, transparent work in all areas based on the established rules and have called for making sure that all international staff perform their duties in a professional and honest way with no influence from anyone? However, everything we propose is discarded.
Thus, it seems that we should be talking about the opposite, the undermining of the OPCW foundations for the sake of geopolitical interests of the Euro-Atlantic "community." All of the above signifies that Western countries have been consistently making efforts to create a mechanism within the Organization to discredit undesirable States. The idea is simple: they use NGOs raised on sponsor funds and proxy pseudo-humanitarian organizations, like the infamous White Helmets, to carry out various provocations, large-scale information attacks accompanied by staged videos. All of the above is then actively promoted by leading Western media outlets, bold political statements are made, the required background is created. Finally, OPCW infrastructure is used to "legalize" these fakes. In the end, we have a substantial body of alleged evidence of crimes, which they start juggling with. These actions reached their climax with today's draft decision on Syria, unprecedented for the OPCW and the CWC.
We would like to appeal to States Parties that actually care about the future of this Organization, not just pay lip service to it, and have a responsible, impartial, and conscious outlook on the events that have been taking place in The Hague over the recent years. We urge them to make a careful and right choice. The adoption of the presented document would undoubtedly set a very dangerous precedent and exacerbate the already deep divide in the OPCW even further. This outcome will not only significantly distance us from the universalization of the Convention but also have a drastic impact on the prospects of a global non-proliferation and disarmament regime.
We also urge you to recognize that any country whose authorities will for whatever reason suddenly become undesirable due to their policy can end up in Syria's place and under pressure resulting from large-scale campaigns of disinformation and manipulations. Once again, think about the reasons behind all similar initiatives, behind the calls to condemn Syria for the supposed use of chemical weapons and to deprive it of the rights and privileges under the Convention.
This decision has a paramount importance for the future of the OPCW: it will either continue to be a trusted international organization dedicated to chemical disarmament and non-proliferation or turn into a platform for manipulations and fulfilment of ambitions of certain countries. In the latter case the very name of the OPCW will become a trademark for the injustice and arbitrariness of certain States. Your choice will decide the way forward, the future for all of us.
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.
We request that this statement be circulated as an official-series document of the 25th session of the CSP and published on the Extranet and the OPCW external server.