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Russia dismisses Western attempts to abuse Syria's so-called chemical file

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People stand in front of damaged buildings in the town of Douma, the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, near Damascus, Syria, on April 16, 2018. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Russia has ripped Western countries for their continued use of Syria's so-called chemical file to exert more pressure on the war-ravaged Arab country, despite the fact that the Damascus government has completely and irreversibly dismantled its chemical weapons production facilities and stockpiles.

“Syria joined the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) voluntarily, with encouragement from Russia, implemented basic conditions under the Chemical Weapons Convention and got rid of its entire chemical weapons arsenal,” Russia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said at a virtual session of the UN Security Council on Thursday.

He added, “In 2014, Syria completely abandoned its chemical weapons program, destroyed all its chemical warfare stockpiles and destroyed its chemical-weapons production facilities – something confirmed by the OPCW more than once.”

The Russian diplomat noted that some countries are repeatedly using the chemical weapons “card” as a tool to pressure the Syrian government, using grave accusations “backed up by unconvincing evidence like video footage on social media or testimony of knowingly biased witnesses, or falsified facts.”

At the same time, he said, “they reject the counter-arguments provided not only by Russia and Syria, but also by independent experts and organizations, and do not give any coherent explanation as to why they do so.”

Nebenzia went on to say that the OPCW and its technical experts have become the “transmitter of anti-Syrian claims of the Western countries."

“The root cause of the problem is that our Western colleagues have long turned Syria’s chemical file into a means of punishment of the unwanted authorities in Damascus,” the Russian UN ambassador said.

“Therefore, attempts to establish the connection between the file and actual use or non-use of chemical weapons are absolutely senseless,” Nebenzia pointed out.

OPCW slammed for manipulated conclusions about Douma attack

The Courage Foundation, an international fund supporting journalists and whistleblowers has sent a “Statement of Concern” to the OPCW about the latter’s report on a 2018 chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma.

The statement, signed by 18 internationally renowned individuals including former senior scientists, engineers and chemical munitions specialists from the OPCW, “details the widespread misgivings about the manipulated and misleading conclusions issued by OPCW management and the implications they carry.”

The statement notes that the handling of the Douma investigation by the OPCW has much wider political and security-related implications beyond the credibility of an organization.

“In the light of much new evidence available of wrongdoing”, the signatories have appealed to world governments to “ensure that the issues raised at earlier OPCW meetings, at the UN Security Council, and elsewhere are finally dealt with in a transparent, rigorous and accountable manner.”

“We are writing in order to express our deep concern over the protracted controversy and political fall-out surrounding the OPCW and its investigation of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, in 2018,” the signatories said.

“Since the publication by the OPCW of its final report in March 2019, a series of worrying developments has raised serious and substantial concerns with respect to the conduct of that investigation. These developments include instances in which OPCW inspectors involved with the investigation have identified major procedural and scientific irregularities, the leaking of a significant quantity of corroborating documents, and damning statements provided to UN Security Council meetings,” the statement added.

“It is now well established that some senior inspectors involved with the investigation, one of whom played a central role, reject how the investigation derived its conclusions, one OPCW management now stands accused of accepting unsubstantiated or possibly manipulated findings with the most serious geopolitical and security implications. The inspectors’ repeated requests to be given an opportunity to discuss their concerns within the OPCW have been ignored and calls by some members of the Executive Council of the OPCW to allow all inspectors to be heard were blocked,” the Courage Foundation pointed out.

On April 7, 2018, an alleged chemical attack hit the Syrian city of Douma near the capital Damascus. Western countries were quick to blame it on the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

A week later, the US, Britain and France launched a coordinated missile attack against sites and research facilities near Damascus and Homs with the purported goal of paralyzing the Syrian government’s capability to produce chemicals.

Damascus, however, said that no chemical attack had happened and that the Douma incident had been staged by foreign intelligence agencies to pressure the government in the face of army advances against foreign-backed terrorists.

It also specifically pointed to the role of the White Helmets, a group which claims to be a humanitarian NGO but has long been accused of working with anti-Damascus militants and staging false-flag gas attacks.

‘US-led coalition continues to support terrorists in Syria’

The Russian and Syrian Joint Coordination Committees on Repatriation of Syrian Refugees said in a joint statement that US-led coalition forces continue to support Takfiri terrorists militarily and financially, and are putting economic pressure on Syrians through plundering the country’s natural resources.

“The coalition forces, deployed to Syria under the pretext of fighting terrorism, fuel criminal activities of militants, provide them with weapons and money, and train members of terror groups,” the statement read.

The joint committees noted that the US, in violation of international law and UN Charter, has launched numerous airstrikes on Syrian lands, occupied large swathes of land and supported militant groups, which wreak havoc in the country.

Despite the Syrian government’s efforts to restore peaceful life in the country, the US and its allies continue to enforce sanctions in order to compel the Syrian nation to capitulate to Western countries’ desires, the statement concluded.

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