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Moscow calls for transparent investigation of Syria chemical incident

Russia’s top diplomat slams attempts to block the proposals by Russia and Iran to establish an independent commission for the investigation
Turkish medics check a victim of alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syrian city of Idlib, at a hospital in Reyhanli, Turkey IHA via AP
Turkish medics check a victim of alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syrian city of Idlib, at a hospital in Reyhanli, Turkey
© IHA via AP

MOSCOW, April 14. /TASS/. Moscow is opposed to the remote work of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in Syria, and an investigation into the April 4 incident in the city of Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province, should be transparent, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday.

"Another strange thing about this story. The US began demanding full access not only to al-Shayrat airfield (Homs province - TASS) but to other facilities as well, for some reason," he noted. "Yesterday (on April 13) at the meeting of the OPCW Executive Council, the organization’s senior officials began to say, "No, we should only investigate the April 4 incident in Idlib, there is no need to go to the airfield." I cannot understand why, the more so since the US initially demanded to examine this airfield, and the Syrian government is ready to accept such an inspection."

"Such inconsistencies make us confident that there is something shady about the whole affair," Lavrov went on to say. "When we say that the scene of the incident should be visited, we are told that the samples had already been taken. Taken by whom? When?"

According to the minister, when the previous incidents involving toxic substances in the areas controlled by militants were investigated, "we were told that some laboratory has investigated the relevant samples, but the laboratory wasn’t certified by the OPCW."

"All these factors combined convince us that it is necessary to support the proposal by Russia and Iran that the OPCW should conduct the investigation, but with the participation of an independent group of experts, an additional group of experts from regional countries, Russia, the United States and Europe," Lavrov stressed. "If our counterparts in the US are so convinced that their version is the only correct one, they have nothing to fear."

"The only argument that is put forward - they accuse us of not trusting the OPCW," Russia’s top diplomat pointed out. "They say that the Investigative Mechanism was endorsed by the UN Security Council. That’s true, it is put down in writing that the UN Security Council supports the creation of this mechanism and expects it to do its work in good faith."

"We put our signatures on this. But did not put our signatures on the fact that the mechanism will work remotely and will not send experts to the scene of incidents and will keep silent about the sampling methods," Lavrov emphasized. "Nor did we put our signatures on the fact that the Mechanism should be led by two British nationals. I hope that no one will be offended at our desire to make sure that the investigation of this headline-making incident is transparent so that no one has doubts that someone is trying to conceal something."

"The attempts to block the proposals by Russia and Iran to establish an independent commission for an unbiased and objective investigation suggest only that those who are taking such attempts have unclean conscience," the foreign minister said.

"Evidences are multiplying that this was an orchestrated event, I mean the incident with the use of chemical weapons in the province of Idlib," Lavrov said.

"The publications that are emerging now, including in the United States and Great Britain, which reflect the opinion of professional experts, suggest that there are too many discrepancies in the version, which was used to try to justify the aggressive action on April 7 and for which an attempt was made to push it through in the UN Security Council resolution two days ago," the Russian foreign minister said.

"We insisted on convening a special session of the Executive Council of the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] and a very heated discussion took place yesterday," Lavrov said.

During this discussion, "Western colleagues clearly tried to prevent any steps that could help establish the truth about what had happened," the Russian foreign minister said.

According to data of the Russian Defense Ministry, Syrian warplanes delivered an air strike on April 4 that hit workshops where terrorists were producing munitions with chemical agents supplied to Iraq and used in Aleppo.

However, Washington concluded that Damascus had used chemical weapons. As a result, the US military fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on the military aerodrome in the province of Homs, from which, as Washington believed, a chemical attack had allegedly started. The missile strike killed 10 people.