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Russia Responds After US Blocks Inspection of Syrian Air Base

US 'blocked a decision aimed at a prompt initiation of a mission to find out what really happened in Khan Sheikhun', according Russia's OPCW Ambassador Alexander Shulgin

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Alexander Shulgin, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), gave a remarkable statement after the US rejected an impartial investigation into the alleged 'Sarin' attack in Khan Sheikhun, Syria, earlier this month.

According to Shulgin, the Untied States and other western countries do not want to conduct an actual, on-the-ground investigation, and instead are relying upon alleged 'samples' taken from the site of the attack. 

Shulgin made it very clear how he felt about Washington's position:

We guess that Americans probably have something to hide, since they persistently want to take the Shayrat airport out of the investigation. Maybe they knew from the start there was no chemical weapons there, and all this was used only as an excuse?

Below are his remarks after the OPCW voted against a joint Russia-Iran resolution to conduct an on-the-ground investigation of the alleged chemical attacks:

Madam Chairperson,

First of all, I would like to thank the delegations of Algeria, China, Sudan and South Africa for supporting the Russian-Iranian draft decision of the Executive Council.

The results of the vote that just took place were distressing to us. The proposal that we put forward in conjunction with Iran on the immediate start of a full-fledged investigation into the circumstances of the incident with the use of chemical agents in the Syrian province of Idlib on April 4 was not supported by the required number of votes. In particular, the states from the Western group opposed this draft decision. We are all the more disappointed by this since the Russian delegation, mindful of the instructions issued by a number of colleagues from other regional groups, was looking, until the last minute, for an opportunity to reach a compromise. Upon agreement with our Iranian partners, who co-authored this draft, we submitted a revised version of it, which includes almost all the comments made during yesterday's meeting. We assumed that no one would step forward to reject such a document.

Still, it happened. We see that this was done under far-fetched and unconvincing pretexts. However, we would like to ask our colleagues from the Western group to think about the repercussions of their actions rather than celebrate their victory. They blocked a decision aimed at a prompt initiation of a mission to find out what really happened in Khan Sheikhun on April 4 and whether there actually were chemical weapons at Shayrat Airbase. Instead, we are told to wait patiently for the FFM to finish its remote work going through a mass of some information without even going to the site.

We are told that the FFM already took some biomedical samples, which were analysed and revealed the presence of sarin. Moreover, they say that the results of this investigation are final and not subject to any doubt. But let me ask you where, how and when were these samples taken? Was the chain of custody, established by the OPCW itself, complied with when safekeeping the evidence? It would be good to receive answers to these questions, especially since the mission, as we know, has never gone to Syria. I’m asking these questions for a reason. In my remarks on April 13, I already said that the Russian military, who collected the materials testifying to the use of chemical weapons in Aleppo, are being forced to bend over backwards trying to explain how they found the fragments of ammunition, to whom they reported and even asking them to present some obscure logbooks. They kept asking us about this during a special video conference, and posed an ever greater number of questions during a meeting on the sidelines of the Executive Council. And this in spite of the fact that our specialists already have a pretty much clear general picture of what actually happened there. Still, four months later, the FFM has not yet come up with any conclusions. I emphasise that they have been analysing this for four months and are still unable to come with any conclusions. Then here, all of a sudden we see such incredible efficiency and conclusions that are not subject to any doubt. So, think for yourselves why we are insisting that the results of a full-fledged comprehensive investigation should inspire confidence not only to a group of Western countries, but to all other states as well.

The fact that the delegations of some countries, primarily from the Western group, are always shying away from accepting the decisions proposed by us and the Iranians suggests that they are, in fact, not interested in establishing the truth.

We operate based on the premise that these irresponsible maneuvers – this is precisely how the Western countries’ initiative to urgently convene the Executive Council in the wake of the events in Idlib should be seen, followed by embarrassed and unintelligible explanations that there’s no need for a solution at all – precisely these irresponsible maneuvers did not escape the attention of some thoughtful delegations. This is evidenced by the large number of countries that abstained from voting today. Of course, we expected that they would vote in accord with us. It would probably be correct to boldly declare their position at this critical juncture and resolutely engage the OPCW’s full potential. But in and of itself, the lack of approval of the view presented by the United States and its closest partners speaks volumes about the fact that the vision of the situation imposed by the Western group is beginning to be perceived critically instead of enjoying unconditional and automatic support. I fully subscribe to the statement by the distinguished Ambassador of Algeria who, explaining why his country supported the Russian-Iranian draft decision, called on everyone to learn lessons from the past. He said that there was a time when people on the African continent were led to think that some things are “absolute truth,” but after a certain time these so-called absolute truths turned out to be absolute lies. Well put. In my remarks at the Executive Council meeting – and some Western colleagues resented me for that – I brought up the false arguments used by the United Kingdom and the United States to invade Iraq, an invasion the consequences of which that country is experiencing to this day.

In a word, it is gratifying to know that many delegations are beginning to look deeper into this situation. I believe this is a guarantee that we will eventually block the imposition of politicised and self-serving approaches.

Russia is committed to the CWC’s goals and objectives, and reserves the right, acting strictly within the framework of the Convention, to take any measures that it deems appropriate to shed light on what happened in Khan Sheikhun, and to verify the allegations of the United States about the supposed use of the Shayrat Airbase for delivering air strikes with the use of chemical bombs.

Thank you. Please see to it that this statement is circulated as an official document of the Executive Council’s special session.

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