Transcript: Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin’s remarks on the U.N. report confirming the use of chemical weapons in Syria – Sept. 16, 2013

Partial transcript of press briefing remarks by Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on the Sellström report confirming the use of chemical weapons in Syria on Aug. 21st. The press briefing was held on Sept. 16, 2013:

Well, as you know already, the Sellström mission report came up with the conclusion that chemical weapons were used in Ghouta on Aug. 21. It is a deeply disturbing conclusion. We strongly condemn all cases of use of chemical weapons in Syria.

But in a way, it did not come as a surprise, not only because of the evidence and other information we heard before we saw the report but also because as you probably recall we investigated on our own in our laboratory the evidence which we gathered from the use of chemicals from this episode on March 19th near Aleppo and came to the conclusion that there was use of chemical weapons in the region of Aleppo.

And you remember the Syrian government immediately invited U.N. inspectors to come and investigate that. Unfortunately, that has not happened yet despite the insistence of the Syrian government and the Russian Federation.

So now we hope will be done by Mr. Sellström and we have some assurance to that effect from the Secretary General and from the mission is that they’re going to return to Syria very soon and complete their mandate.

As you know, by the mandate they worked out with the Syrian government, they’re still supposed to complete the investigation of the March 19th incident near Aleppo and then do two other sites as they worked out with Syrian government because this is going to be their mandate.

After that, we are looking forward to receiving their overall final report of the work of the mission and that will be very important for all of us, I think, to understand the whole situation.

Now, I think some colleagues jump into their conclusions when they were saying that the Sellström report definitely proves that it was the government forces who used the chemical weapons in Ghouta Aug. 21.

First of all, we didn’t even have the chance to look at the report. We’re given the report when the consultation started and when the Secretary General already completed his remarks. We had a quick glance but not really – we’re not really able to study the report.

We want everybody to treat it as an extremely serious technical matter and want everybody to look at the report with eyes of experts.

In fact, we were the ones who asked the Secretary General to call Mr. Sellström in because initially for some reason the Secretary General showed up without Mr. Sellström in the consultation room. But we asked him to bring Mr. Sellström in and in absence of objections from other members of the Security Council, it did happen and we were able to ask questions of Mr. Sellström.

But anyway, it has to be studied very carefully. The work of the Sellström mission should continue.

And also, the allegations that in fact it was the opposition who used chemical weapons cannot be simply shrugged off, I mean, on Aug. 21. Those allegations also need to be very seriously investigated.

I think statements to the effect that the opposition could not have done certain things, I think they’re not really as scientific and as grounded on reality as the actual situation could be.

One question which I sort of wondered out loud about in the course of the consultation and there was no answer to that, you know, “Where are the scenarios of the use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 by the government forces. They are fighting with opposition armed groups and they fire a number of rockets with chemical weapons, trying to get to those armed opposition groups. And there are no casualties in the opposition groups. There have been no reports of any casualties among the opposition groups, among the actual fighters.”

On the March 19th situation near Aleppo, the Syrian government reported that about 26 people killed, 16 were from the Syrian military. So it isn’t even theoretically possible to fire five or six rockets against your opponent and have all of them miss the target.

So all those questions are there and the need to be addressed very seriously and professionally.

Also, we have of course the second part of the work we’re doing and this is a much more fundamental part trying to get to the root cause of the crisis in Syria and trying to get to the root cause to chemical weapons in Syria.

You’re well aware of the Russian initiative and the Russian-American document adopted in Geneva. The framework document. And so of course everybody want to proceed as quick as possible.

Let me assure that we’re working among another lines – working with the Syrian government, working with the Hague, working here in the United Nations and especially with our contact with our American colleagues – in order to make sure that things should happen as fast as possible.

But at this particular moment, the first thing which needs to happen is the resolution of the executive secretariat of the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. They need to have the resolution adopted.

And then we need to act in support of that result. And while we’re doing that, we need to make sure not to waste time and have unnecessary arguments. That we exactly take up what was agreed in Geneva between Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Kerry as reflected in the document, you know, this framework – Russian-American document. Trying to improve the document, change the document, correct the document will simply be wasting time, wasting valuable time which we need to use as effectively as we can in order to move this project of ridding Syria of chemical weapons as quickly and as effectively as possible.

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One Comment on “Transcript: Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin’s remarks on the U.N. report confirming the use of chemical weapons in Syria – Sept. 16, 2013

  1. Pingback: U.N. inspection report confirms "large scale" chemical weapons attack in Ghouta | What The Folly?!

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