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Report on Syria chemical attacks probe ‘deeply disappointing’ — Russian diplomat

November 08, 3:43 UTC+3

There is every reason to think that the April 4, 2017, incident in Khan Shaykhun, which the investigators blame on Damascus, was plotted by the militants, Vladimir Safronkov said

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Vladimir Safronkov

Vladimir Safronkov

© AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

UNITED NATIONS, November 8. /TASS/. Results of the investigation into chemical attacks in Syria by a commission of the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) cannot withstand any criticism, Russia’s deputy UN envoy Vladimir Safronkov told the Security Council.

He dismissed the results of investigation as "deeply disappointing" and the report drafted by experts as "a document of middling quality."

The report that was made public on October 26 and the conclusions it contains "simply don't hold water," Safronkov said.

There is every reason to think that the April 4, 2017, incident in Khan Shaykhun, which the investigators blame on Damascus, was plotted by the militants, he said.

Safronkov criticized the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism saying its experts had worked remotely and had refused to visit the site of the incident.

The diplomat rejected the claims of the US and other Western countries that Moscow tries to stonewall the probe into Syria’s chemical attacks by suggesting that the investigative commission’s work should be changed.

"We do not undermine the authority of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, we just cite facts and arguments," Safronkov stressed. The Russian side is convinced that the mechanism, which has such great responsibility, "cannot continue work in this manner."

"Without a drastic change it will remain a blind tool for settling accounts with the Syrian authorities. Now it has such a reputation. This is unacceptable," the diplomat said. He stressed that during drafting its resolution on extending the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, Russia sought to "increase its efficiency and enhancing in line with high standards of the Chemical Weapons Convention."

Syrian chemical attacks investigation

The mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism expires on November 17. Russia vetoed the US-drafted resolution on extending the investigative commission’s mandate until November 2018, calling to wait until the publication of another report. In this report, the experts blamed the Syrian authorities for the sarin attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 4. They also said the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia) was responsible for the attack in northwestern Syria’s Maarat Umm Hawsh on September 16, 2016.

On November 2, Russia and the United States submitted to the UN Security Council their draft resolutions on extending the Joint Investigative Mechanism’s mandate. The two documents have different timeframe - the Russian draft extends the mandate until May 16, 2018, while the US version gives the mission 24 months since the adoption of the resolution. The text submitted by the US delegation paves the way for measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows sanctions and the use of force, for attacks involving chemical weapons. The Russian draft calls for revision of the mission’s earlier conclusions, because, in Moscow’s view, the investigation did not conform to international standards. The Russian Foreign Ministry stressed that the US draft resolution was unacceptable.

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