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Probe into chemical weapon incidents in Syria looks like subversion, diplomat says

The thing is that the JIM staff investigated the incident in Khan Shaykhun remotely, mostly from The Hague and New York offices, the Russian diplomat noted

MOSCOW, October 20. /TASS/. The UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) looking into toxic attacks in Syria seems to be unable to perform its duties in full and moreover, seems to be unwilling to do it, Mikhail Ulyanov, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Nonproliferation and Arms Control Department, told TASS on Friday.

There could be problems with quality of the JIM report, expected on October 26, over chemical weapons attacks in Syria, according to the diplomat.

"The fact is that the JIM staff investigated [the incident in Khan Shaykhun] remotely, mostly from The Hague and New York offices. Although they should have visited both Khan Shaykhun, where the April 4 chemical weapon incident took place, and the Shayrat air base, where according to Americans, sarin used in Khan Shaykhun had been stored," Ulyanov said.

"To tell the truth, the situation looks like a subversion," he said.

"First, the UN mission refused to visit the incident scene in Khan Shaykhun. They carried out their investigation in a country neighboring Syria, referring to a lack of necessary security conditions," Ulyanov said.

"Nevertheless, it has turned out recently that this does not correspond to reality. Two weeks ago, the UN Secretariat’s Department of Safety and Security confirmed at the Security Council that in fact safe and secure access to the scene was guaranteed to UN staff by local field commanders. Without having any grounds, the mission simply refused to go to the scene."

Nobody has gone to Khan Shaykhun from the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), either, he noted.

"We, however, insisted that experts visit at least the Shayrat air base to make sure if sarin was stored there or not," he went on to say. "JIM staff visited the Shayrat air base about ten days ago, but refused to collect samples saying they had not had any instructions from their chiefs to do it."

"It has turned out that it was the JIM top officials’ principal stance: do not collect samples," he added.

"In conclusion, there is a question what will quality of the investigation be like?" Ulyanov said. "As soon as we get the report, we will see and analyze. Then we will take a decision if it is worth extending the mechanism which appears to be unable to perform its duties in full and moreover, seems to be unwilling to do it," he added.

Commenting on remarks by CIA Director Michael Pompeo who asserted that the United States had irrefutable evidence that the Syrian government was responsible for the Khan Shaykhun chemical weapons attack 70 hours after the incident, the Russian diplomat said, "It is difficult to comment on this statement."

"The Americans often come up with allegations justifying their stance citing intelligence data, but, naturally, they refuse to share it. That’s why we cannot trust the statements made by the CIA director, all the more so because, according to our information, in reality, the incident in Khan Shaykhun was staged by local militants from opposition forces," Ulyanov told TASS.

In November, the UN Security Council is due to vote for the JIM mandate extension.

The OPCW report published on June 29 said that sarin or a similar nerve agent was sprayed in Syria’s Khan Shaykhun on April 4. As a result, nearly 100 people, many of them children, were killed. According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, the Syrian aviation struck terrorists’ workshops producing chemical warfare agents in the town. Washington accused Damascus of using chemical weapons, after which the US Navy delivered a missile strike in the small hours of April 7 on Syria's Shayrat military airfield in the province of Homs.