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Diplomat says Syrian chemical weapons hype aimed at undermining peace

A Russian diplomat has also commented on the humanitarian crisis in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta

GENEVA, February 26. /TASS/. The hype around chemical weapons in Syria and humanitarian crisis in Eastern Ghouta is pursued by opponents of the Syrian government with the goal of disrupting peaceful settlement, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations office and other international organizations in Geneva Gennady Gatilov said in an interview with TASS.

"Unfortunately, we all see the attempts to undermine progress towards peaceful and political settlement by hyping up various ‘issues.’ First of all, these are chemical issues, which are used by Western countries to accuse the Syrian authorities and the army of using chemical weapons and also Russia, indirectly," the diplomat said.

Gatilov said France’s initiative on creating the so-called International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons was one of examples of this approach.

"Some time ago, France convened a Paris meeting with participation of the inner circle of its supporters on this issue. By the way, neither Moscow nor Beijing was invited to take part in this event and it is clear why: the key idea was to accuse Damascus of using chemical weapons and condemn the Syrian authorities and also Russia," Gatilov said, adding that no evidence was provided and the accusations were made based on fake news.

"Unfortunately, this line is continuing and now we know that the French are planning to hold the meeting on setting up this partnership on February 28 in Geneva," Gatilov said.

"Certainly, we treat this event in a negative way. This is an attempt to bring it to an international platform and therefore make it look like the international community, including the UN, supports this initiative, although this is not so," he noted.

Speaking on the humanitarian crisis in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, which is being hyped up by "ill-wishers" of Damascus, the diplomat said: "It is well-known that terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra [outlawed in Russia] are based there [in Eastern Ghouta] who are shelling the Syrian capital. This concerns civilian facilities, such as hospitals, schools and diplomatic missions."

"We need to ensure that the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist units stop military actions and shelling the capital of this region. This is the only way to achieve ceasefire and create favorable conditions for sending humanitarian convoys with aid cargos for the citizens," Gatilov stressed.

Moscow backs efforts of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on facilitating intra-Syrian talks based on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, he went on. 

"Our position on continuing talks in Geneva on Syria remains unchanged. We have consistently supported and continue supporting efforts of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on promoting intra-Syrian talks under the UN auspices and based on the Security Council Resolution 2254," the diplomat said.

Gatilov recalled that Russia had voiced discontent over the lack of progress in Geneva. "The Astana meetings initiated by us were aimed at giving the necessary impetus to the political process. The same thing may be said about the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, which was recently held."

The final statement at the Sochi Congress in late January stressed that political settlement should be in the framework of the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the UN has the right to take part in setting up the constitutional commission that will be tasked with drafting Syria’s key law.

The head of the Russian diplomatic mission stressed that the meetings in Astana and Syria contribute to the progress in Geneva. "This is confirmed by the countries that are directly involved in the Syrian settlement process and the efforts to search for the ways out of the crisis."

The diplomat said many factors are influencing the situation and the progress in the Syrian settlement depends on these developments. "The crucial task now is to set up the constitutional commission and if this process is not delayed we may expect that the talks between the Syrian government delegation and the opposition will be no longer at an impasse."

UN assistance

The United Nations’ Human Rights Council, due to meet in 37th session in Geneva on February 26 - March 23, must provide assistance to countries in developing human rights and freedoms mechanisms and not be used as an instrument of punishment, he went on. 

He recalled that Russian diplomats at HRC sessions have always pressed for impartial attitude to human rights situations in different countries and opposed double standards in that sphere.

"Our high-principled stance on this issue remains unchanged," Gatilov said. "We believe that any activity in the field of human rights is expected to serve the person and respect of human dignity."

"The Human Rights Council is a body that must help countries fine-tune human rights mechanisms and not be used as a tool of punishment," Gatilov said.

"Regrettably, our western partners constantly try to use the HRC for attaining their own political aims, as a rule, unseemly ones," he went on to say. "We are aware of this, and we will certainly take countermeasures and display initiative."

Russia cannot afford to agree to a situation in which "human rights are used for political purposes to exert pressures on undesirable governments with the aim of their ultimate overthrow or the use of sanctions."

"Human rights are one of the main guidelines of our activity," said Gatilov, who took office as Russia’s permanent representative in Geneva in February. He said that "in the high segment" of the 37th session of the HRC Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will make a statement to explain Russia’s approaches to this set of problems and Russia’s vision of how this very important body should operate.

"We are going to hold a high-level discussion in connection with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 25th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action. Also, we will present our traditional resolution The Integrity of the Judicial System, which condemns arbitrary keeping in custody without access to justice. Regrettably, some countries, in the first place, the United States, still use this practice," Gatilov said.

In cooperation with Russia’s civil society several events will be held on the sidelines of the HRC session, such as a photo exhibition showing the achievements of Russia’s handicapped, a conference on Ukraine and impermissibility of attempts to falsify history," Gatilov said.