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Diplomat: West blocks Russia-China initiative on stopping chemical attacks in Syria

Russia is worried over the fact that terrorists seem to have learned to manufacture poisonous substances, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin says

UNITED NATIONS, May 5. /TASS/. Western countries are hampering the passage by the United Nations Security Council of a Russian-Chinese initiative geared to prevent the production and use of chemical weapons in Syria, Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said on Wednesday.

He drew attention to the conclusions of specialists from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that militants in Syria used, most likely, yperite, a highly toxic gas. He said Russia is worried over the fact that terrorists seem to have learned to manufacture poisonous substances.

"It is regrettable that in conditions when it is necessary to immediately employ all available mechanisms to put a roadblock to the activities of chemical terrorists some of the United Nations Security Council’s Western members use trumped-up pretexts to block the Russian-Chinese initiative aimed at checking the threat of production of chemical weapons in Syria and around it by terrorists," the Russian diplomat said.

In April, Russia and China initiated a draft resolution of the United Nations Security Council that binds the countries to immediately report to the United Nations Security Council and the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) in Syria about any actions of non-government entities aimed at developing, obtaining, possessing, transporting, transferring or using chemical weapons and means of their delivery. Apart from that, the draft resolution tasks the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism with monitoring capacities to reveal persons, groups or governments involved in such activities.

A number of the United Nations Security Council members, including Venezuela and Angola, have supported this initiative whereas others, in particular Great Britain, said the Russian and Chinese initiative needed thorough consideration.

Over 90 inhabited localities in Syria join truce

Over 90 inhabited localities in Syria have joined the regime of ceasefire, and peaceful life in being restored in a number of governorates, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN said at a meeting of the Security Council dedicated to the situation in Aleppo.

"More and more detachments of armed opposition and inhabited localities are joining the [ceasefire] regime, including thanks to the efforts of Russia’s center for reconciliation in Khmeimim. Today, there are more than 90 such localities," Churkin said.

He lamented that the situation has become tenser in some Syrian regions, including Aleppo.

Earlier Wednesday, the US Department of State announced that Russia and the United States reached an agreement on a repeated imposition of the "silence regime" in Aleppo after similar agreements led to a considerable reduction of the level of violence in Latakia and Damascus. Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed that the truce entered into force and will last until 24:00 May 5.

Churkin said the truce in Syria does not cover terrorists and it is inadmissible to take a break in the fight against them.

"It is inadmissible to make a pause in the fight against terrorists, making it possible for them to gather themselves up. No one’s going to have mercy upon terrorists and those who, jointly with them, violate the regime of cessation of hostilities. This is a requirement of the Security Council resolutions," he said.

The conflict in Syria has lasted since March 2011. In April 2016, the United Nations secretary general’s special envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura said the hostilities in the country have left 400,000 people dead. Later he specified that it was his personal assessment. Up until now, the UN has named the death count of over 250,000 in Syria.

The ceasefire regime took effect in Syria on February 27, 2016. Shortly before, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution supporting a cessation of hostilities. The document drafted by Russia and the United States was backed by all 15 Security Council member states.

The ceasefire regime does not cover the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations as well as other groups ruled terrorist by the Security Council.

Russia takes an active part in the Syrian settlement effort. It helps Syria's authorities fight terrorists and has conducted mine clearing work in the ancient city of Palmyra.

Russia’s Aerospace Forces started delivering pinpoint strikes in Syria at facilities of Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, which are banned in Russia, on September 30, 2015, on a request from Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On March 14, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to start, from March 15, withdrawing the main part of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ group from Syria. Putin said the tasks set before the military "have been fulfilled on the whole." Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said strikes on terrorists will continue to be delivered.