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Russia’s UN envoy: Moscow ‘not blocking’ UN access to Syria, Western ‘propaganda storm’ misleading

Published time: July 11, 2013 19:27
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin speaking at the UN headquarters in New York on July 11, 2013 (AP video still)

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin speaking at the UN headquarters in New York on July 11, 2013 (AP video still)

Russia’s envoy to the UN has refuted US accusations that Moscow is blocking UN access to Syria “to investigate any and all credible allegations,” claiming the charge is “misleading.” He also urged Western partners to refrain from a “propaganda storm.”

Speaking from the UN headquarters in New York, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that Russia had done everything within its power to facilitate a Syrian government request that the UN investigate the deployment of chemical weapons in a government-controlled suburb of Aleppo on March 19.

“It was not through the fault of ours that the Syrian government was presented with formulas for that investigation – Iraq time formulas – which of course were impossible to accept,” Churkin stated.

The ambassador also stressed Russia’s role in helping arrange an invitation for members of the UN chemical arms team to visit Damascus.

On Wednesday, the head of the UN investigation team to probe the alleged use of Chemical Weapons in Syria, Ake Sellstromand, and UN disarmament chief Angela Kane accepted an invitation from the Syrian government to discuss the investigation of alleged chemical attacks in Syria.

Meanwhile, Churkin further refuted the US State Department’s claim that Russia was blocking a UN Security Council effort to allow UN access into Syria.

“It’s not for the Security Council to allow access. It’s for the Syrian government to agree on that, with the [United Nations] Secretariat. And this is exactly what they’ve been trying to achieve, having invited the UN chemical weapons inspectors to Syria way back in March.”

The envoy further stressed the need to only look into “credible allegations,” as Western states had been attempting to create “the maximum number of allegations with minimal credibility in an effort, one might think, to create maximum problems for arranging such investigations.”

He further attempted to silence western diplomatic chatter, which claimed that Russia had blocked a draft UN Security Council resolution this week to prevent a UN chemical weapons investigation team from conducting an “objective” inquiry in Syria.

It is “wrong to describe Russia as the sole voice” in the discussion on Syria, Churkin went on to say. He added that his Chinese colleague, Ambassador Li Baodong, “entirely shared” his position.

According to Churkin, this includes the two countries’ belief that the language used in the G8 statement on the chemical weapons investigation should be made into a resolution.

“What we pointed out is that a declaration of the G8 is an important political document of course – but it is not necessarily meant to be put in the form of a resolution,” he said.

It is “clear” from the text of the G8 statement, that there should first be an investigation, and then the results of the investigation should go to the Security Council for assessment, Churkin stressed.

However, some Western nations – the UK in particular – “tried to put the cart before the horse once again,” Churkin said, adding that such notions were “completely unreasonable and contrary to the G8 declaration they were referring to.”

The Russian envoy also noted what he deemed to be a somewhat inadequate response by several Western countries following an announcement that Russia handed over its thorough investigation of the Aleppo incident to the UN.

“Even before having a chance to look at this very serious and substantive 80-page investigation analysis,” some senior Western diplomats made “remarks…repeating this naïve story they came up from the outset...that it was the government itself who was shooting but missed the target and killed its own people,” Churkin said.

After the visit of two senior UN representatives to Damascus, he said “it makes no sense, if you’re interested in good results, to create this kind of a small propaganda storm in a glass of water” and keep on holding onto those “fantastic scenarios.”

The envoy reiterated that the Russian inquiry makes it “absolutely clear that both the projectile and the chemical [used in March 19 Aleppo incident] were produced in a way, which rules out…production by the Syrian government” and “conclusively shows” that the chemical weapons were “in fact…used by the opposition.”

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