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Russia calls for new conclusion on Douma incident — envoy

Russia's Permanent Representative to the OPCW Alexander Shulgin said that "a mistake about Douma or possibly other incidents may have extremely serious consequences for stability and security in the whole world"

THE UNITED NATIONS, January 21. /TASS/. Russia calls for holding a briefing under the auspices of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in order to coordinate a consensus conclusion on the incident in Syria's Douma, Russia's Permanent Representative to the OPCW Alexander Shulgin told an informal session of the UN Security Council at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday.

"You know, this story with a very murky official report by the OPCW looks like a festering sore, to be honest. We cannot move forward until we eliminate it," Shulgin said.

"What kind of trust to the Technical Secretariat and between member states can we talk about then?" Shulgin wondered. "In this regard, we once again propose to resolve the conflict situation that emerged by holding a briefing under the OPCW roof and maybe with participation of all interested countries, to hear all experts of the FFM [Fact-Finding Mission] who worked on the incident in Douma, so we can finally make a consensus conclusion on this resonant incident in the Syrian city," he noted.

"This should be done at any cost, imperatively. A mistake about Douma or possibly other incidents may have extremely serious consequences for stability and security in the whole world," the diplomat stressed.

Shulgin said that Russia is not trying to provoke a confrontation in the OPCW. "In fact, the US and their usual support group are operating the categories of confrontation," he said.

"When it comes to trust for the Technical Secretariat [of the OPCW], more and more new questions emerge," Shulgin continued. "From the materials published on the WikiLeaks portal at the end of 2019, we see that not one-two, but many more people did not agree with the official conclusion made by the FFM [Fact-Finding Mission]. We were always told that there were only a couple of those who disagreed while others nearly unanimously supported the mission's findings," he added.

"It became clear to many in the OPCW that FFM's methods need to be brought in line with the CWC [Chemical Weapons Convention]: always go to locations of suspected chemical weapons use, collect samples and other evidence, strictly follow the basic rule of ensuring the chain of preserving the collected materials, guarantee the geographically balanced composition of the mission, without domination of experts from countries allied with Washington," the diplomat said. "However, it is unfortunate that all these logical suggestions based on common sense face categorical refusal from the group of Western states led by the US," he added.

"Any remarks on the mission's work are immediately painted by our US and British colleagues as slander against dedicated professionals from the FFM and personally Director-General Fernando Arias," the diplomat stressed. "Under the same pretext, any proposals by many countries to improve FFM's methods are refused," he added.

"A clearly dead-end situation transpires in the organization at the moment," he noted. "The Technical Secretariat, inspired by the unconditional support from the US and their followers, does not intend to do anything. They probably hope that the situation will resolve itself, but it actually won't," Shulgin concluded.

A number of non-governmental organizations, including the White Helmets, alleged that chemical weapons were used in Douma, Eastern Ghouta, on April 7, 2018. Representatives of the Russian Center for reconciliation of the conflicting sides in Syria investigated Douma but did not find any traces of chemical weapons.

On April 14, 2018, the US, the UK and France delivered massive missile strikes at targets in Syria without the UN Security Council’s mandate. The scientific and research center in Damascus, the Syrian Republican Guard headquarters, an air defense base, a few military airfields and army warehouses came under attack. Washington, London and Paris claimed the strikes had come as a response to an alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma.

The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) issued a 100-page final report on March 1, concluding that chlorine was used during the attack in Syria’s Douma on April 7, 2018. The report was submitted to the United Nations Security Council through the UN secretary general and specifically states that the cylinders containing chemicals that were found at the incident site were airdropped.

However, a new report signed by OPCW expert Ian Henderson emerged on the Internet in May, stating that both cylinders were likely to be placed at the incident site rather than airdropped. These conclusions support Russia and Syria’s version that the incident was staged, however, they were not included in the final report of the organization.