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Moscow notes extension of OPCW-UN mandate in Syria should depend on quality of its work

Russia finds the approach towards conducting investigation and laboratory research surprising

MOSCOW, October 23. /TASS/. The extension of the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) looking into the use of chemical weapons in Syria should depend on the quality of its work, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday commenting on the next JIM’s report due to be circulated at the UN Security Council on October 26 and the expiration of JIM’s mandate on November 16.

"The US insists on passing a resolution on extending the JIM mandate at an early date. It grossly distorts Russia’s stance alleging that Moscow will block the extension, if the Mechanism’s conclusions turn out to be anti-Syrian," the diplomats noted. "Such statements have nothing to do with reality."

"First of all, no one has seen any conclusions, as there is no report yet, and Washington’s desire to extend the mandate in these circumstances at whatever the cost seems strange, to put it mildly. Secondly, we have always said that our stance on extending JIM’s mandate will depend not on who will be blamed but on the quality of the probe and its compliance with the requirements of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)," the ministry said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also warned against artificially whipping up hysteria over the use of chemical weapons in Syria. "To make sure that the UN Security Council makes a grounded decision on the issue, it is necessary to look through the report first, all the more so because there is no substantive information on JIM’s activities over the past year yet," the Russian diplomats stressed.

"Although there is no report, they insist on extending the mandate. That won’t do. It is necessary to act in accordance with the established practice, that is, first, it is necessary to study the report on the performance of the mechanism established by the Security Council over the past year and then consider the extension of the mandate. One should not whip up hysteria artificially," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Moscow’s stance on the probe

The Russian Foreign Ministry drew attention to the ambiguous methods and results of the probe conducted by the Joint Investigative Mechanism. During the six months since the Khan Shaykhun chemical incident, the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission and JIM carried out extensive work, but only remotely, without disclosing sources and other fundamentally important information as required by the Chemical Weapons Convention, the ministry noted.

"We have insisted right from the start that, for the sake of a highly professional and impartial investigation, international experts, in accordance with the Convention’s standards, should visit the site of the incident along with Syria’s Shayrat Airbase where sarin used in Khan Shayhun was stored, as the US alleged. The OPCW assured us in May and June that the issue of visiting Khan Shaykhun was under discussion from the point of view of safe access guarantees. However, later on it said there is no need for the visit, since the use of sarin can be regarded as an established fact. JIM later said it adhered to the same stance," the statement said.

"However, the Security Department of the UN Secretariat later informed the UN Security Council that in reality the guarantees of safe visits to Khan Shaykhun had been provided, but inspectors just did not want to take advantage of the opportunity," the diplomats stressed.

Besides, Russia finds the approaches towards conducting the investigation and laboratory research surprising. "A strange situation has arisen with a visit to Shayrat Airbase as well. JIM’s representatives have recently visited the airbase at our insistence. However, they flatly refused to take any samples to establish whether or not sarin had been used," the diplomats stressed. "This approach makes it difficult, if at all possible, to count on high-quality conclusions from the investigation."