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Russia to press for due investigation of Idlib chemical incident by OPCW — envoy

April 21, 2017, 7:31 UTC+3 THE HAGUE

Russia’s OPCW envoy Alexander Shulgin said Moscow will "certainly find adequate measures" after its initiative on chemical probe in Syria was turned down

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THE HAGUE, April 21. /TASS/. Russia will do its best to ensure proper investigation into the chemical incident in Idlib by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) in Syria, Russia’s envoy to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) told TASS.

When asked what measures can be taken after the OPCW executive council turned down the Russian-Iranian initiative concerning the investigation of the presumable use of chemical weapons in Syria’s Khan Shaykhun on April 4, Russia’s OPCW envoy Alexander Shulgin said Moscow will "certainly find adequate measures."

"Speaking about the work here, in The Hague, we will press for the FFM to work as stipulated by its mandage: to have a fair geographical representation in line with UN documents, to conduct its work not remotely, but during field trips and under methodological standards approved by the OPCW itself. No half-baked conclusions, no wild guesses based on online allegations," the Russian diplomat said.

He added that the group of Western states and their allies, who rejected the initiative, were apparently "not interested in conducting a real investigation."

"What if it turns out that there was no Syrian airstrike on Khan Shaykhun at all, maybe it was just a provocation organized by local militants. What if it becomes clear that no chemical weapons were ever stored at the Shayrat airbase?" the envoy said.

The diplomat cited the April 19 incident when a US diplomat tried to prevent Russia’s Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department Director Mikhail Ulyanov from demonstrating at a large screen images that illustrated obvious inconsistencies in the version disseminated by the Western media.

"Our respected colleague, the US ambassador, panicked and tried to prevent this demonstration, citing the rules of procedure. At the same time, no one prevented the US envoy in New York from demonstrating images of children who presumably died of chemical weapons," Shulgin said. "We felt the same nervous reaction by our US partners to the proposal of sending FFM experts not only to Khan Shaykhun, but also to the Shayrat airbase."

"This is very strange, given that the issue of sending an expert mission to the airbase in order to investigate claims of chemical weapon storage there was already discussed during the April 5 conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The secretary of state made no objections, as far as I know" the Russian diplomat said. "If so, it is unclear why the US mission is trying to somehow obscure this issue."

The incident that supposedly involved the use of chemical weapons occurred in Khan Sheykhun, Syria’s Idlib Governorate, on April 4. The Russian Defense Ministry said the Syrian Air Force destroyed a facility where militants had been making nerve gases.

Washington rushed to accuse Damascus of using chemical weapons. The accusations were followed by a cruise missile strike at the Syrian airbase in Shayrat, Homs Governorate. US defense officials alleged the Syrian jets that delivered the chemical agent to Khan Sheykhun had taken off from Shayrat.

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