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Russian diplomat points to UN-OPCW misunderstanding in Syria chemical incident probe

December 28, 2017, 19:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The incident involving the alleged use of chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun in the Idlib province occurred on April 4, killing almost 100 people

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MOSCOW, December 28. /TASS/. Moscow believes that a certain misunderstanding exists between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in probing the chemical incident in Syria’s Khan Sheykhun, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

A group of experts of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission visited Damascus on December 8-16 in the wake of numerous requests of the Syrian government, the Russian diplomat noted.

"Unfortunately, we have to state once again: the visit directly to the scene of the incident did not take place again: experts of the OPCW special mission refused at the last moment to go to that area, referring to the allegedly corresponding recommendations of the UN Department of Safety and Security, even though this territory has long been under the government troops’ control," the spokeswoman said, noting that "the Syrian side gave additional guarantees of safe access and expressed its readiness to provide a helicopter and an armed convoy for the OPCW representatives."

"At UN headquarters, the fact of these sorts of recommendations was not only unconfirmed but even denied. This indicates the existence of at least a certain misunderstanding between the two international structures," the Russian diplomat said.

"We would like to expect that such mismatches and some gaps in the positions and in the OPCW’s interaction with the UN will be eliminated already in the near future and the work on probing the incidents of chemical weapons’ use in Syria will be brought into full compliance with the high standards of the Convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons," Zakharova stressed.

The incident involving the alleged use of chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun in the Idlib province occurred on April 4, killing almost 100 people.

According to the data of the Russian Defense Ministry, Syrian warplanes struck terrorists’ workshops engaged in the production of chemical warfare agents. Washington accused Damascus of using chemical weapons, after which the US Navy delivered a missile strike overnight to April 7 on the Syrian military aerodrome in the province of Homs.

The mandate of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism to probe chemical incidents in Syria expired on December 18. It was set up by decision of the UN Security Council in August 2015 to identify the perpetrators of these chemical attacks.

The Commission relied on the data gathered by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission. Over the period of its existence, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism submitted seven reports, pinning the blame for four chemical incidents on the Syrian government.

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