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Russia rejects allegations of chemical warfare agents at Syrian air base as groundless

"This is a clumsy attempt at least somehow to justify" the US missile strike, according to the Russian diplomat
Russian Foreign Ministry Dmitry Serebryakov/TASS
Russian Foreign Ministry
© Dmitry Serebryakov/TASS

MOSCOW, April 7. /TASS/. The statements that the nerve gas sarin was present at the Syrian air base in Homs that was hit by a missile strike are groundless, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Mikhail Ulyanov told TASS on Friday.

"The allegations that have emerged about the chemical warfare agent sarin that was present at the Syrian air base hit by a missile strike are groundless," the diplomat said.

"This is a clumsy attempt at least somehow to justify the actions running counter to the fundamental norms of international law," he said.

On order of US President Donald Trump, the US military fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from its warships in the Mediterranean on an air base in the Syrian province of Homs on Thursday night. The missile strike was delivered in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian province of Idlib on April 4. The US leadership believes that the alleged chemical attack was launched from that airfield.

Russia has qualified the US missile strike as aggression against a sovereign country and a violation of international law.

Сhemical disarmament in Syria

The Russian Foreign Ministry has dismissed the US’ statements that Russia has failed its liabilities concerning chemical demilitarization in Syria as nonsensical.

"Statements made in Washington these days that Russia has allegedly failed to implement its liabilities concerning chemical demilitarization in Syria are absolutely nonsensical," Ulyanov said.

"It is especially rueful that these statements come from persons who have the highest positions in the U.S. administration, including the Vice President and the Secretary of State who should be in the know when they speak up," he said.

The Russian diplomat reminded that back in September 2013 Russia took energetic diplomatic efforts to prevent the US’ military aggression against Syria and helped to reach a solution to have Damascus join the Chemical Weapons Convention. "Back then, Russia and the United States reached an agreement in Geneva which was swiftly fixed by a resolution of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118," he said. "Under these documents, Moscow and Washington bear absolutely equal responsibility. So, US officials might as well address their claims to their own country."

"Russia has never taken any additional liabilities," Ulyanov stressed. "We are not a guarantor of Syria’s sovereign decision to join the Chemical Weapons Convention either. Attempts to impose such a role on us are not in good faith and are spun out of thin air."

"Under the Chemical Weapons Convention, entire responsibility for the implementation of liabilities under this international agreement rests on the Syrian government," the Russian diplomat noted. "And there are grounds to say that Damascus has duly performed this task and in conditions of combat operations ensured swift withdrawal of precursors of chemical weapons out of the country."

'Barefaced lie'

Charges Russia covers up alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria’s Khan Shaykhun are a barefaced lie, according to Ulyanov.

"As for the charges Russia allegedly covers up the use of chemical weapons by Damascus in Khan Shaykhun on April 4, they are a barefaced lie," Ulyanov said. "In reality we are for a fundamental probe into this matter."

"It is very inappropriate to make irresponsible judgements on the basis of unverified and conflicting reports, let alone reports that come from such discredited sources as the notorious White Helmets, who have more than once been exposed as outright fake-makers and scammers," he added. "For this reason Russia has addressed the UN Security Council with a draft resolution saying specialists from the international agencies concerned should urgently visit the site of the alleged incident and carry out all investigative actions required."

"It is noteworthy that our Western partners have emphatically refused to accept this proposal. In their own draft resolution they do mention an investigation, too, but for purely ritual purposes," Ulyanov said. "They did not hesitate to declare that without any investigations they have the absolute certainty the Syrian side is guilty."

Ulyanov recalled that fifteen years ago the very same countries made similar statements in relation to Iraq.

"Everybody remembers well enough what came of it," he said. "The Western countries’ current policies in the UN Security Council allow for making the conclusion that they were utterly uninterested in establishing the truth all along and that they are still less interested in this after the US strikes against Syrian facilities."

Earlier, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson alleged Russia had defaulted on its liabilities under the 2013 agreements on the elimination of chemical weapons. He claimed that "Russia was an accomplice or just incompetent in the execution of the agreement to the end."