In recent days the Security Council has once again focused its attention on the Syrian chemical dossier in connection with the anticipated release on 26 October of the regular report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) to investigate incidents of use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, and also the expiry of the mandate of JIM on 16 November 2017.
Over the six months since the notorious chemical incident in Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017, the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission, and then JIM, carried out extensive work, but all of it was done remotely, and without revealing the sources of information or other essential data, as required under the Chemical Weapons Convention. From the very outset, we have insisted that, in the interests of carrying out a fully professional and objective investigation, the international experts, in line with the standards of the Convention, should visit the site of the incident, as well as the Syrian airbase at Shaʽirat, where, according to the United States of America, sarin used in Khan Shaykhun was stored. In May-June OPCW assured us that it was working on securing safe access to Khan Shaykhun, but it later declared that there was no need to visit the site because, supposedly, the use of sarin could be considered an established fact. The very same position was then taken by JIM as well. Recently, however, the Department of Safety and Security of the United Nations Secretariat informed the Security Council that there were actually guarantees of safe access to Khan Shaykhun, but the inspectors simply did not want to take advantage of them.
A strange situation also arose in connection with the issue of visiting the Shaʽirat airbase. At our insistence, JIM representatives recently went to the base, but categorically refused to take samples in order to establish the presence or absence of sarin. With such an attitude, it is difficult, if not impossible, to expect a high-quality outcome of the investigation.
The United States of America is insisting on the immediate adoption, practically straightaway, of a resolution on extending the mandate of JIM. At the same time it is grossly distorting the Russian position by claiming that, allegedly, Moscow will block the extension of the mandate if the JIM findings have an anti-Syrian slant. Such allegations are completely groundless. Firstly, no one has seen any findings, since there is as yet no report, and Washington’s desire under these circumstances to extend the mandate at all costs looks a little strange, to put it mildly. Secondly, we have always said and continue to maintain that our position on the extension of the mandate of JIM will depend, not on who will be found at fault, but on the quality of the investigation and its conformity with the requirements of the Convention.
In order for the Security Council to take a well-grounded decision on this issue, it is necessary, first, to read the report, particularly since the Security Council has not received any meaningful information about the work of JIM over the past year. There is no report, and yet they are insisting on extending the mandate. This will not do. It is necessary to act in accordance with established practice: first, read the report on the outcome of the work of JIM, the structure created by the Security Council, over the period under review, and then consider the question of extending the mandate. There is no need to whip up hysteria once again.
Source: UN A/72/578-S/2017/901