In Emergency Meeting, Security Council Speakers Voice Grave Concern over Alleged Chemical Weapons Use in Syria, as Versions of Recent Attacks Sharply Differ

SC/13284
9 April 2018
8225th Meeting (PM)

In Emergency Meeting, Security Council Speakers Voice Grave Concern over Alleged Chemical Weapons Use in Syria, as Versions of Recent Attacks Sharply Differ

Syria’s Representative Says Meeting Convened on False Pretences, Offers to Facilitate Visit by World Verification Body in Refuting Claims of Involvement

In an emergency meeting following claims of chemical weapons attacks against civilians in Douma, Syria, both Security Council members and officials briefing them voiced grave concern that the use of such weapons risked being normalized — and could contribute to rapidly escalating tensions between world Powers — for the first time since the end of the cold war.

Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy for Syria, outlined events over the last 48 hours, including reports of civilians in the eastern Ghouta town of Douma suffering symptoms consistent with chemical weapons exposure.  Over the weekend, photos had begun to circulate on social media showing lifeless men, women and children, while non-governmental organizations claimed to have received cases of civilians experiencing the effects of chemical weapons.  While the United Nations was not in a position to verify those reports, he said, “it cannot ignore them”.

He said several States had suggested that Syria’s Government was responsible, while others — including the Government of Syria itself — had called those claims a fabrication.  Noting that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had begun an initial investigation, he voiced concern, for the first time in his tenure, over not just the security of Syria or the region, but the world.  “The Council cannot allow a situation of uncontrollable escalation to develop in Syria, on any front,” he stressed.

Thomas Markram, Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, cited reports that at least 49 people had been killed and hundreds injured in the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma.  Noting that the OPCW Fact-Finding mission was already gathering information, he emphasized that what was being seen in Syria could not go unchallenged by anyone who valued the decades of efforts to bring about disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  Urging the Council to unite to those ends, he stressed:  “To do otherwise, or to simply do nothing, is to accept, tacitly or otherwise, that such a challenge is insurmountable.”

Taking the floor, Council members differed sharply on their versions of the Douma incident, with some recounting gruesome descriptions of civilians hiding —and perishing — in their basements as chemical weapons fell from above.  Others described the event as “fake news” aimed at falsely incriminating the Syrian Government and its allies.  Still others, recalling that claims of chemical weapons use against Russian nationals had been reported in the United Kingdom town of Salisbury just weeks ago, expressed concern that the world was seeing a re‑emergence of such weapons as part of a dangerous new “status quo”.

France’s representative said thousands of videos and photos emerging from Douma in recent days showed victims foaming at the mouth and convulsing, all symptoms of a potent nerve agent combined with chlorine.  There was no doubt as to the perpetrators, as the Syrian Government and is allies alone had the capability of developing such substances.  The children killed were not “collateral damage”, but, instead, the very targets of State terrorism constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity.  “The Assad regime, yet again, is testing the international community’s commitment” to respond robustly to the use of chemical weapons, he said, stressing that words must be followed by action, or risk being hollowed of all meaning.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the five permanent Council members had a particular responsibility to uphold the global prohibition on weapons of mass destruction.  One of them, however, did not share that belief.  The situation today was not like that during the cold war, when there was no flagrant disregard of that universal prohibition.  Syria’s Government and its backers, Iran and the Russian Federation, were prolonging the fighting and risking regional and global instability.  While the United Kingdom believed the Syrian regime was responsible for the latest attack, there must be an independent fact-finding mission to determine if chemical weapons had been used, and if so, which ones.  It must be followed by an independent investigation to determine who was responsible.

The representative of the United States, recalling that, almost exactly one year ago, she had shown the Council photographs of Syrian children who had been gassed to death in Khan Shaykhun.  There was no point in continuing attempts to shame those responsible — the Syrian regime and the Russian Federation.  Indeed, Moscow had cast 11 vetoes in defence of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and had killed the Joint Investigative Mechanism, which had found Syria’s Government responsible for last year’s attack.  “There can be no more rationalization about our failure to act,” she stressed, adding that the United States President was weighing important national decisions related to the crisis.

Rejecting those claims, the Russian Federation’s delegate said Washington, D.C., and those blindly following it — namely London and Paris — were deliberately stoking international tensions and engaging in a confrontational policy against the Russian Federation and Syria without any justification.  The United States and its partners did not understand the potential consequences of their reckless geopolitical experiment in the Middle East, he said, emphasizing that Western capitals were taking up rumours spread by non-governmental organizations, the white helmets and the media.  The use of sarin or chlorine gas in Douma had not been confirmed, he stressed, calling for a prompt investigation and for Western politicians to scale down their rhetoric.

Syria’s representative agreed that the lies of some permanent Council members had fuelled conflicts, including in Viet Nam, the Korean Peninsula and Iraq.  Now they sought to defeat Syria.  Emphasizing that the United States, United Kingdom and France were eager to hold Council meetings on the basis of fabricated information, he recalled that the Syrian Government had warned the Council, OPCW and the Joint Investigative Mechanism on many occasions about terrorist groups possessing chlorine and sarin.  The White Helmets would fabricate evidence and Hollywood-like scenes intended to stir incitement against Syria and its allies.  The Syrian military had no chemical weapons, having destroyed them under United States auspices, he stressed.

Also speaking were representatives of the Netherlands, China, Sweden, Poland, Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Bolivia and Peru.

The meeting began at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 5:45 p.m.

Briefings

STAFFAN DE MISTURA, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, said today’s emergency meeting underscored the gravity of events that had taken place in Syria over recent days, as well as their severe consequences for civilians.  Those events had come amid increased international tensions, with actual confrontations possible.  Calling on the Council to address those events with unity and purpose, he recalled that a fragile ceasefire had held in Douma for most of March.  However, after 31 March, the United Nations had been prevented by Syria’s Government from continuing to engage in talks.  Beginning on 8 April, Douma had seen sustained air strikes and shelling, including attacks on civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure.  Jaish al-Islam had requested the United Nations’ engagement, but that request had not been reciprocated by the Government.  This past weekend, photos had begun to circulate on social media showing lifeless men, women and children, while non-governmental organizations claimed to have received cases of civilians suffering the effects of chemical weapons.

As the Secretary-General had said, the United Nations was not in a position to verify those reports, he said, “but it cannot ignore them”.  Any confirmed use of chemical weapons was abhorrent and required a thorough investigation.  While several States had alluded that Syria’s Government was responsible, others —including the Government of Syria itself — had called those claims a fabrication.  That was yet one more reason for a thorough investigation, he said.  Noting that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had begun an initial investigation, he urged the Council to uphold international law and “for God’s sake, ensure that a mechanism is found to investigate these allegations”.

Describing recent events, he said the Russian Federation had indicated it had reached an agreement with Jaish al-Islam and that up to 8,000 fighters and their families were now evacuating Douma.  Some detainees had been released.  The agreement provided for civilians who had decided to remain, under guarantees from the Russian Federation, he said, urging that country and Syria to ensure the protection of those civilians and immediately refocus on implementing Council resolution 2401 (2018).  The danger of escalation loomed beyond eastern Ghouta, with reports of air strikes against a Syrian “T4” base for which no one had claimed responsibility.  The United States and France had specifically denied responsibility for that attack, while the Russian Federation and Syria had suggested that Israel was responsible.  The United Nations was unable to independently verify or assign responsibility for that attack, but it urged all parties to show restraint.

Also voicing concern over the possibility of escalation elsewhere in Syria, and increasing tensions in the north, where Turkey was currently engaged, he said it was particularly tragic that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) had launched new operations despite the years of work by so many parties.  The first priority must be to protect civilians, he stressed, calling on all sides to respect international law and ensure humanitarian access to all people in need, as well as complete respect for resolution 2401 (2018) throughout Syria.  Preventing impunity for any use of chemical weapons must be an utmost priority for all Council members.  For the first time today, he was concerned not just about security in Syria or the region, but across the world.  “The Council cannot allow a situation of uncontrollable escalation to develop in Syria, on any front,” he stressed.

THOMAS MARKRAM, Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said new and deeply disturbing allegations regarding chemical weapons use had come to light since he last briefed the Council less than a week ago.  According to reports, at least 49 people had allegedly been killed and hundreds injured in a chemical weapons attack in Syria.  More than 500 cases had reportedly presented with symptoms consistent with such an attack.  The Office for Disarmament Affairs had been in touch with OPCW, which was gathering information through its Fact-Finding Mission and other sources.  “There is, sadly, little to be said today that has not already been said,” he stated, emphasizing that the use of chemical weapons was unjustifiable and that those responsible must be held to account.

What was being seen in Syria could not go unchallenged by anyone who valued the decades of efforts to bring about disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, he said.  The Security Council must fulfil its responsibilities and unite in the face of that continuing threat.  “To do otherwise, or to simply do nothing, is to accept, tacitly or otherwise, that such a challenge is insurmountable,” he said, adding that chemical weapons use could not become the status quo, nor could the international community continue to fail the victims of such weapons.  Council unity on a dedicated mechanism for accountability provided the best foundation for success, he said, adding that the Secretary-General and the Office for Disarmament Affairs stood ready to assist.

Statements

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), noting that his delegation had called for today’s meeting under the agenda item “threats to international peace and security,” said Washington, D.C., and those blindly following it — namely London and Paris — were carrying out a deliberate policy to stoke international tensions.  Without justification, they were engaged in a confrontational policy against the Russian Federation and Syria, prompting others to follow suit.  His country was being unpardonably threated and the tone of language had gone beyond what was acceptable even during the cold war.  The United States and its Western partners did not understand the potential consequences of their reckless geopolitical experiment in the Middle East.  Most Council members were confounded by their lack of strategy, yet were not saying so openly.  He wondered if the United States and its partners understood the dangerous threshold to which they were taking the world.

Terrorists and extremists in Syria, supported by external sponsors, were being defeated, and in line with Council resolutions, a large-scale operation was under way to lift the siege on eastern Douma, he said, describing the evacuation of more than 150,000 people from that Damascus suburb and the voluntary return of tens of thousands.  Difficult negotiations had, meanwhile, been carried out with leaders of armed groups, with many accepting to exit with guarantees for their security, in line with the United Nations principle of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.  Nevertheless, foreign sponsors were grasping at any straw to maintain a hotbed of resistance near Syria’s capital, he said, with Western capitals taking up rumours spread by non-governmental organizations, the white helmets and the media.  It was hardly surprising that, in the absence of an investigation, the burden of responsibility was being pinned on the Russian Federation and Iran.  He asserted that artisanal chemical substance factories had been discovered in liberated parts of Syria, adding that the trajectory of the devise allegedly used in Douma was unusual.

“We need to get to the bottom of this”, but in an honest and objective way that did not prejudge the outcome, he said.  The use of sarin or chlorine in Douma had not been confirmed.  He invited those who would speak against him to proceed from the premise that no chemical attack had taken place.  The OPCW experts should immediately fly to Damascus where Syrian authorities and Russian troops would provide the conditions for them to go to the scene and familiarize themselves with the situation, as called for by the President of the United States and other Western leaders.  He went on to say that air strikes this morning on an airfield in Homs Province was deeply troubling, and that fake news from Douma was aimed at drawing attention away from the Sergei Skripal case in the United Kingdom.  Quoting the representative of the United States as saying that her country had never been a friend of the Russian Federation, he said no one could force a friendship and “we are not begging to be friends with you”.  His country wanted normal civilized relations, which the United States was arrogantly refusing.

Emphasizing that international terrorism was the common enemy, he said the Russian Federation called on Western politicians to scale down their rhetoric and consider the consequences of their conduct.  Nobody had the right to act as the world’s gendarme, or its investigators, judges and executioners.  He called for a return to the legal fold, in line with the United Nations Charter, and for an end to “egotistical geopolitical games” alongside support for the political process to end the conflict in Syria.  Concluding, he requested an open Council meeting on the outcome of the United Nations assessment mission in Raqqa.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), recalling that his was among the nine Council members who had called for today’s emergency meeting, said one permanent member had sought to obstruct the discussion, seeming to prefer an international community “that stands by and watches as a spectator” as it covered for the crimes of its ally, the Syrian regime, including war crimes.  However, the Council would not stand idly by when international law had been trampled, he stressed, adding:  “Silence and impunity are not an option”.  Calling for the urgent protection of civilians, as well as for accountability for any chemical weapons use, he said the majority of Member States counted on permanent Council members not to use their veto in cases of mass atrocities, and had noted that the Council had been unable to move forward for months due to the use of the veto by one such member.  Members must intensify their efforts towards a mechanism that could continue the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism and identify the perpetrators, independent from the politics of the Council.  “The United Nations is bigger than this Council alone,” he said, noting that a powerful General Assembly must also consider instruments to ensure accountability for the use of chemical weapons.  He also reiterated support for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism; the Commission of Inquiry; the International Partnership Against Impunity; a referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court; and an urgent investigation into the allegations by the OPCW Fact‑Finding Mission.

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) recalled that, almost exactly one year ago, she had been forced to show the Council photographs of Syrian children who had been gassed to death.  “After that day, I prayed I would never have to do that again.”  But, the day had sadly come, she said, noting that, this time, she would not hold up gruesome photographs of civilians foaming at the mouth, hiding in basements they thought would shelter them from President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons.  While she could certainly show pictures of suffering survivors, or first responders in the streets, or hospitals struck by barrel bombs following the gas attack, she instead asked:  “Who does this?  Only a monster does this.”  There was no point in showing such photos, because the monster responsible for the attacks had no conscience.  The Russian Federation, whose hands were bloodied by deaths in Syria, could not be shamed.  That country and Iran were helping to direct the Assad regime’s attacks and “starve‑and‑surrender” campaigns, providing the hardware needed to conduct them.  No civilized Government would have anything to do with Assad’s murderous regime, she stressed.

The Council so far had failed to act “because the Russian Federation has stood in its way every single time”.  While the body was quick to condemn attacks by the Assad regime, 11 vetoes had been cast throughout the conflict to defend its actions.  Recalling that the Joint Investigative Mechanism had determined that Syria’s Government was responsible for the attack in Khan Shaykhun a year ago, she said the Russian Federation had “killed it” because of those findings.  Today, the Council was once again confronted with the option of giving the Russian Federation a pass in order to maintain its unity.  What was being considered today was not about a spat between the United States and the Russian Federation, but about the use of chemical weapons on civilians.  “There can be no more rationalization about our failure to act,” she stressed, noting that two draft resolutions were being circulated.  The Council must re-establish a professional and impartial mechanism to investigate chemical attacks in Syria, she stressed, noting that the United States President was weighing important national decisions related to the crisis.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said that, while initial reports stated that the 7 April chemical attack in Douma had killed about 50 people and wounded another 1,000, the toll was likely to be higher, as some areas remained inaccessible.  Chlorine gas, which was heavy, was capable of entering basements where civilians were hiding.  Noting that thousands of videos and photos had surfaced in the hours following the attacks — showing victims foaming at the mouth and convulsing, all symptoms of a potent nerve agent combined with chlorine gas — he said there was no doubt as to the perpetrators, as the Syrian Government and is allies alone had the capability of developing such substances.  Douma had been subjected to shelling by Government forces in recent weeks, and the Government had already been identified at least four times by the Joint Investigative Mechanism as being responsible for chemical attacks.  Indeed, the world had already seen those events.  The children killed were not “collateral damage”, but, instead, the very targets of State terrorism constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The latest escalation of violence revealed the madness of a Machiavellian regime that sought to destroy its enemies, he said.  Noting that the Russian Federation maintained a presence in eastern Ghouta, and had been conducting air operations there on the day of the chemical attack, he said no Syrian aircraft ever took off without consent from the Russian Federation.  That meant the Russian Federation had either been involved in 7 April attack or tacitly agreed that it could take place.  Stressing that Assad regime had become uncontrollable, he said its supporters — including a permanent Council member — had failed to implement resolution 2401 (2018), which it itself had co-sponsored.  He demanded a cessation of hostilities and an immediate ceasefire, as called for in that resolution, as well as the establishment of a new investigative mechanism to examine the event and bring the perpetrators to account.  “The Assad regime, yet again, is testing the international community’s commitment” to respond robustly to the use of chemical weapons, he said, stressing that words must be followed by action, or risk being hollowed of all meaning.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), describing the situation as “dreadful, in the true sense of that word”, said the five permanent Council members had a particular responsibility to uphold the global prohibition on weapons of mass destruction.  One of them, however, did not share that belief.  The situation today was not like that during the cold war, when there was no flagrant disregard of that universal prohibition.  Syria’s Government and its backers, Iran and the Russian Federation, were prolonging the fighting and risking regional and global instability.  While the United Kingdom believed the Syrian regime was responsible for the latest attack, there must be an independent fact-finding mission to determine if chemical weapons had been used, and if so, which ones, she said.  It must be followed by an independent investigation to determine who was responsible.  The Russian Federation’s offer for an OPCW visit to Douma was worth pursuing, so long as that organization had full freedom of action and access.  Voicing support for the United States draft resolution, she said there was no reason not to support its call for an independent investigative mission.  The Russian Federation sought to turn discussion away from chemical weapons and towards a dispute between East and West, presenting itself as a victim.  On the Skripal case, she said a thorough investigation was under way in Salisbury.  That was not the case in Syria.  However, the two incidents did have in common the Russian Federation’s refusal to assume its responsibilities regarding weapons of mass destruction.

WU HAITAO (China) reiterated his country’s firm opposition to chemical weapons use, and its support for a comprehensive, objective and impartial investigation that would stand the test of history and facts with the perpetrators being brought to justice.  China supported the Council and OPCW as the main channels for addressing chemical weapons, and it hoped that parties concerned would take a constructive approach.  Emphasizing the need for Council unity, he said a political settlement was the only way to resolve the Syrian question, with the international community respecting Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.  On the Skripal case, he reiterated his country’s position in favour of an investigation within an OPCW framework.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said the use of chemical weapons in Syria had become a central test of the Council’s credibility.  Despite the odds, Council members must set aside their differences, demonstrate unity and condemn in the strongest terms the continued use of chemical weapons in Syria.  The immediate priority must be an investigation into events over the weekend in Douma.  All States and parties to the conflict, including Syrian authorities, must fully cooperate with the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission, which must be accorded safe and unhindered access to Douma.  At the same time, the Council must agree a new mechanism to identify those responsible for chemical weapons use in Syria, with the perpetrators being held to account.

PAWEL RADOMSKI (Poland), expressing horror at news of chemical weapons use in Douma, condemned that barbaric attack and underscored that no military or political goals could ever justify the extermination of innocent civilians.  Calling on all actors, especially the Russian Federation and Iran, to take all necessary actions to prevent further use of such weapons and arrive at a cessation of hostilities, he said all parties must comply with their obligations under international law.  It was highly regrettable that the renewal of the Joint Investigative Mechanism mandate had been vetoed, which would have prevented impunity for such attacks as the one that had just taken place.  Establishing a similar investigative mechanism was the minimum owed to civilians in Syria, he stressed.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), calling the reports, photos and videos emerging from Douma this weekend deeply disturbing, strongly condemned any use of chemical weapons by any actor, under any circumstance.  Those responsible must be held accountable, which was critical to preserving international peace and security, as well as the global non-proliferation architecture.  The reported attacks must be investigated by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission, with all parties cooperating.  While all agreed that accountability was essential to deter and end the use of such weapons, there was no independent impartial mechanism that could identify the perpetrators of gas attacks in Syria.  As such, the Council should restore its unity and engage in a constructive discussion to reach a solution, he said, noting that the recent proliferation of nuclear weapons and “a new low in trust” among global military Powers posed additional dangers.  He expressed regret that the Council had so far been unable to address those new and emerging threats.  Voicing concern that the lack of unity and cohesion among the Council’s permanent members, in particular, was undermining its credibility, he said the elected members might be forced to lead the way.  “We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand.”

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire), reaffirming his rejection of any use of chemical weapons, called for light to be fully shed on the alleged attacks on 7 April.  Calling for a steadfast commitment to the global non-proliferation regime, he pressed the international community to establish a mechanism to ensure the perpetrators of such attacks were held accountable.   Expressing regret that resolution 2401 (2018) had not been implemented, and that the humanitarian situation in Syria had further deteriorated, he said a ceasefire was needed now more than ever.  All parties must immediately cease their hostilities, uphold international law and protect civilians in line with resolution 2401 (2018).  Ultimately, the solution to the crisis in Syria could not be a military one, but must be reached through a political framework in line with resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva negotiations.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said recent protests in Gaza, missile attacks in Syria and the reprehensible chemical attack in Douma all represented a genuine threat to international peace and security.  No use of chemical weapons must go without investigation or punishment.  Underscoring the pressing need for an independent United Nations investigative mechanism, he said the outcomes of such enquiries must be made public, with those responsible held to account “before the implacable gaze of Lady Justice”.  Affirming that the Council was at a cross roads as far as options were concerned, he appealed to those States with influence on the parties in Syria, Israel and Palestine to push them towards negotiations.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said the situation within the Council was becoming increasingly strained.  It must act unanimously, in a balanced and pragmatic manner, with its members demonstrating flexibility and rising above national interests.  Calling for an early investigation of the Douma incident, he wondered if there were any other reliable sources who could verify the veracity of white helmet accounts.  It was important for the Council to consider the Government of Syria’s reports that opposition terrorist groups had attempted to prepare chemical attacks in eastern Ghouta.  “We are not advocating for any one or the other side of this conflict, but demand only a full and objective consideration,” he said, adding that an investigation must take motives into account.  Recalling the urgent need for an investigative mechanism, he proposed that the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission be sent as early as possible, with Damascus providing security access and assistance.

MANOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) expressed deep regret that Arab questions on the Council agenda had seen no improvement, particularly the Syrian crisis.  Resolutions were not being implemented.  The Council had been unable to shoulder its responsibilities and lacked unity in the face of threats to international peace and security, leaving people in the Middle East to suffer.  The Council must create an impartial, transparent and professional mechanism that would determine if chemical weapons had been used and to ensure that perpetrators were held accountable.  Syrians were tired of following Council meetings without seeing results on the ground.  Council members must overcome their political differences and create a new accountability mechanism, he said, calling on them to build on the draft resolution submitted by the United States.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia), stressing that chemical weapons use could never be justified, condemned the alleged attacks in Douma and said the OPCW Fact-Finding mission should, in the most objective way, verify their use.  Should the use of those weapons be verified, perpetrators must be identified and held accountable.  An investigation must be totally independent and impartial, and the work of the Council should never be politicized or manipulated.  Decrying indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, he said all parties must adhere to international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as Council resolutions.  The conflict could not be resolved militarily, but, instead, through a political settlement without outside meddling.  Attempts to exacerbate sectarian tensions in Syria, or take unilateral actions that contravened the United Nations Charter which would undermine Syria’s sovereignty would only bring parties further from a resolution.  On the Salisbury incident, he called for a transparent and independent investigation, with the total cooperation of all parties involved.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), Council President for April, speaking in his national capacity, underscored the need for an in-depth investigation into allegations of chemical weapons attacks, which, if confirmed, would constitute an atrocity crime and a contravention of international law.  All parties, and those with influence on them, must abide by the ceasefire laid out in resolution 2401 (2018) and cooperate with the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission.  Another mechanism, leading to the trial and punishment of perpetrators, must be established, in strict compliance with the Charter.  In a similar vein, he warned that the use or threat of use of unilateral force would violate international law, and he called on the Council to pursue unity as a top priority.

Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), taking the floor a second time, requested that the representative of the United States refrain from naming any legitimate Government as a “regime”, including his own.  If that happened again, he would halt the meeting for a point of order.  Turning to the United Kingdom’s delegate, who had described the Syrian incident as being different from the Salisbury one where an investigation was under way, he asked for more information about the latter, stressing that he was unaware of any such investigation.  News reports indicated that the United States Central Intelligence Agency had offered to shelter the Skripals in that country under new names which would keep the Russian Federation from interacting with key witnesses.

Also citing reports that the Skripals’ household pets had been cremated and of efforts to destroy the Skripals’ home, he said none of his Western colleagues wished to listen to objective information about the Salisbury incident.  Moreover, no one cast any doubt on the United Kingdom version of events, even before any reports had been concluded.  “You merely don’t wish to hear this,” he said, also emphasizing that there was no evidence of any kind confirming chemical weapons use in Douma.  The footage circulated had clearly been staged by the white helmets.  Calling on the Fact-Finding mission to immediately visit Douma to investigate, he pledged to cooperate with such an examination, adding that a draft resolution on the establishment of a new investigative mechanism was already in blue and the Russian Federation was ready to adopt it immediately.

Ms. PIERCE (United Kingdom), also taking the floor a second time, said the investigation into the Salisbury incident was an independent one being carried out by police, and the Council would be updated when it had something to report.  The difference between the incidents in Salisbury and Douma was that the United Kingdom was a party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction in good standing, whereas Syria had not complied with its obligations under that instrument.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said the representative of the United States had threatened his country, while that country’s administration lacked respect for the Council, the United Nations and international law.  Recalling that delegate’s request for the Council to act to achieve justice in Syria, he said the United States should allow the release of the findings of United Nations Special Commission into weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which, after 18 years’ work “didn’t find chemical weapons or Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola”.  Its archives had been buried in iron boxes, not to be opened for 60 years, he said, wondering what was so shameful about their contents.

He said Syria condemned in the strongest terms the ruthless Israeli aggression on the T4 airport, which had left several civilians dead and injured.  That attack would have occurred without United States support for Israel, which had never been held accountable for its State terrorism and its threat to regional and global peace and security.  By failing to refer to Israeli aggression in their statements, Western countries were complicit in such action.  Today’s Israeli aggression, confirmed by the Prime Minister of Israel, was an indirect response to the Syrian military’s success against armed terrorist groups.  But, such acts would not divert the army’s attention from a decisive military victory over terrorism.

Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., he said a lie was like a snowball, growing larger the further it was rolled.  Some permanent Council members had become professional liars, which was itself a weapon of mass destruction.  Their lying had fuelled conflicts in Viet Nam, the Korean Peninsula and Iraq, and through lying, they sought to defeat Syria.  It was worth noting that the negative statement by the United States representative contradicted remarks by that country’s Secretary of Defense who, in a magazine interview two weeks ago, admitted that Syria had not used poison gas on its people.

He went on to say that, in letters to the Council dating back at least five years, his Government had warned that countries sponsoring terrorist groups in Syria would give them access to chemical weapons, then claim Syria had used them.  The United States, United Kingdom and France had been eager to hold Council meetings on the basis of fabricated information.  Since 2013, they had created “a big elephant of lies” that was stomping its big feet on the Council’s credibility.  He wondered whether those countries had sought today’s meeting to legitimize Israel’s aggression earlier in the day or to obstruct the agreement reached between his Government and terrorists in Douma.  He thanked the Russian Federation’s delegate for recognizing the true nature of what those countries sought.

Importantly, Syria had conveyed to the Council, OPCW and the Joint Investigative Mechanism, in a total of 145 letters, its concern that armed terrorist groups possessed chlorine and sarin, he said.  Working with the white helmets, those groups would use those chemicals to fabricate evidence and Hollywood‑like scenes intended to stir incitement against Syria and its allies.  The Syrian military had no such weapons, which had been destroyed under United States auspices, he said, emphasizing that Syria was prepared to facilitate an OPCW visit to Douma as soon as possible to investigate and verify the allegations.

He asserted that Syria had eliminated the vast majority of ISIL/Da’esh elements in three years, including the “terrorist tentacles” of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.  Also eliminated, he said, was the genetically modified armed moderate opposition.  Tens of thousands of moderate terrorists remained on the border with Turkey and inside the separation zone in Golan, and whoever wanted to adopt them were welcome to apply.  Concluding, he reiterated that Syria had no chemical weapons of any kind and that it condemned their use at anytime, anywhere, under any circumstance.  It would cooperate with OPCW in line with its commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention.  An investigation would establish no sign of chemical weapons in Douma, he said, adding that what was currently unfolding was “really a Hollywood scene”.

For information media. Not an official record.