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Lavrov: Russia ready to provide security guarantees to OPCW experts in Syria’s Douma

On April 7, a number of NGOs, including the White Helmets, alleged that chemical weapons were used in Douma, Eastern Ghouta

MOSCOW, April 10. /TASS/. Russia is prepared to provide security guarantees to OPCW experts to investigate the alleged chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Douma, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday.

"Any references to security concerns [for OPCW experts] are unlikely to be serious. Douma has been completely freed from militants and is controlled by government troops. The Russian military police have been deployed to the area," Lavrov said. "If security guarantees for OPCW inspectors are required, such guarantees will be provided."

According to him, Moscow invited OPCW experts to make a visit to Douma in order to figure out what had happened there. "We have not received a response yet," Lavrov said.

"We have heard statements from The Hague that they have launched an investigation into the Douma incident," the Russian top diplomat said. "However, the use of chemical weapons has not been confirmed yet. Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and Russian representatives from relevant agencies visited the site of the alleged attack in Douma but did not find any traces of chemical weapons," he added.

"We cannot take the results of remote investigations for granted anymore," Lavrov went on to say. "This is what happened in Khan Shaykhun, when a remote investigation resulted in a flimsy report containing expressions such as ‘highly possible’ and ‘highly likely’," he noted.

"We know the true price of such expressions and will never again take them for granted," the Russian foreign minister concluded.

Russia on Tuesday will propose a draft resolution of the UN Security Council on an investigation to be conducted by OPCW specialists into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria’s Douma, he added. 

"We will propose a draft resolution of the UN Security Council to enable the OPCW to comply with its liabilities under the Chemical Weapons Convention, conduct an investigation, including on-site inspection and proper safe-keeping of all samples taken along the transportation route to the laboratory, and ensure everything should be transparent and fair. The draft resolution will require precisely this sort of inquiry in response to a direct invitation of the Syrian government, which is prepared to receive experts in the field already now," Lavrov said.

He promised that Moscow was prepared to guarantee the security of OPCW experts who would be investigating the Douma incident.

"Any lame excuses, such as doubts over the safety [of OPCW experts] will be hardly serious. Douma has been cleared of militants and is under the control of government forces. The Russian military police are in place, too," Lavrov said. "If OPCW experts need security guarantees, such guarantees will be provided."

"If those who wish to indulge in speculations over the chemical issue for pushing ahead with their anti-Syrian, Russophobic policies prevent experts once again from examining the scene on the pretext there are no security guarantees, that will be tantamount to a verdict," Lavrov said. "In fact they will acknowledge their real plans and thereby confirm that they are not interested in establishing the truth either in this case, or in Khan Shaykhun, or in the Skripal affair or anywhere else, whenever they try to groundlessly accuse Russia."

Events in Syria

Some NGOs, including the White Helmets, claim that chemical weapons were used in Douma, a suburb of the Syrian capital on April 7. According to the statement uploaded to the organization’s website on April 8, chlorine bombs were dropped on the city to kill dozens and poison other local civilians who had to be brought to hospital.

The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed that as fake news. The Russian Defense Ministry stated that the White Helmets were an unreliable source, notorious for disseminating falsehoods. The Russian Center for the Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides on April 9 examined Douma to find no traces of chemical weapons. Earlier, various official Russian agencies repeatedly warned that preparations had been in the works around different parts of Syria for provocations and simulations of chemical attacks that would be blamed on Damascus.