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693 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     685 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities

SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

11.10.2019

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Alexander Shulgin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OPCW, at the 92nd session of the OPCW Executive Council, The Hague, October 8, 2019

Mr Chairperson,

Mr Director General,

Ladies and gentlemen,

First, allow me to welcome Ambassador Andrea Perugini at the head of the Executive Council. We would like to assure you, Mr Chairperson, of our full support and readiness for constructive work so that this year’s last regular session of the council will be as successful as possible.

In November, we will review last year’s operations of the OPCW which, admittedly, is going through difficult times. We are approaching the next Conference of the States Parties with a pile of accumulated problems. I will briefly describe the major ones now.

Attribution. Almost a year and a half ago, a minority of participating States supported an unlawful decision to give the once purely technical organisation unnatural functions to identify those responsible for using chemical weapons. Russia is strongly opposed to a review of the OPCW mandate and encroachment on the exclusive competence of the UN Security Council.

But this is not the most serious concern for us. The Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) formed at the OPCW accepts the dubious findings of the Fact Finding Mission (FFM) in Syria and relies on them in its work. We will say a few words about that special mission later. But in this case, here are the facts: the FFM reports, some of them quite questionable, have been accepted by the IIT. The conclusions in these reports leave little chance that the conclusions of the attributive mechanism will be objective.

We are also alarmed that all IIT investigations are conducted behind the scenes and in a non-transparent manner. The participating states receive almost no information about what this team is doing; they are not familiar with the methods and modalities of its work, the principles for selecting personnel, or even with its terms of reference.

A recent briefing in Syria organised by the Technical Secretariat is a typical example. What did we hear there? Nothing specific. It was a closed-door briefing, and the participating states were entitled to receive complete data on the IIT’s work. It turns out that the IIT, being an integral part of the Technical Secretariat, which, as you know, is accountable to the Executive Council, operates almost autonomously and outside the control of this governing body. This is absolutely unacceptable, contrary to the spirit and letter of the Convention.

Now about the FFM. While recognising the importance and scope of the work done by the mission, we and our Syrian colleagues have repeatedly criticised it, primarily pointing out its frequent departures from the principles and provisions set forth in the OPCW Convention and regulatory documents. But each time we say that, we encounter a “wall of misunderstanding” and a refusal to discuss the existing issues factually. Just look at the investigation into the chemical incident in the city of Douma on April 7, 2018. A logical question arises: how can we build further work, how can we find out the truth when we see no willingness for discussion or openness? We would like to encourage the delegations to seriously and thoroughly discuss the work of the FFM which is included on the agenda. We are ready for this.

I would like to say a few words about other aspects of the so-called Syrian “chemical file.” At one time we supported the approach of the Technical Secretariat to the discussion of this set of problems through a structured dialogue. We consider it important to discuss all issues in strict conformity with the Chemical Weapons Convention and without any preconditions related to attribution innovations. But why are there such long intervals in this work? The dynamics are gone.

At the same time we welcome the intention of the Director General to hold a regular round of consultations with Damascus in the upcoming weeks and hope that progress will be reached there.

As for countering chemical terrorism, Russian representatives have said many times that the OPCW has a fairly limited potential for this because it is not an antiterrorist organisation. But we think that even this modest potential is not used in full. The OPCW has the working group on terrorism and the sub-working group on non-state actors. However, at their meetings we hear what counterterrorism efforts are made by other international organisations and what seminars and conferences are attended by employees of the Technical Secretariat. But when will we start talking about the substance of the matter – how to use our own potential?

Syria regularly submits reports to the Technical Secretariat on the activities of terrorist and extremist groups with access to toxic chemicals on its territory. The role of the OPCW is to prevent the use and dissemination of chemical weapons. Shouldn’t it act as an early warning system? If it discusses the preparations of terrorists in public it will be much more difficult for them to carry out their evil plans.

We are very concerned about this year’s work on the 2020 OPCW draft programme and budget. The consultations between the States Parties and the Technical Secretariat revealed serious differences on the concept of the so-called omnibus draft decision.

Like other delegations, we objected to the proposed package option. The OPCW regular budget and the distribution of cash balance are two completely different things and can’t be put in the same basket. These issues are regulated by different provisions of the financial rules and are independent of each other. Yet, this is being done stubbornly, and our concerns are ignored. The omnibus draft is submitted to the Executive Council and presented as the only option without any alternatives.

We assume that the Executive Council plays a very important role in the budget process. Its decisions are a guide for the Conference of the States Parties (CSP). It should make recommendations on the programme and budget documents based on consensus. But there is no consensus at this point. We think the Executive Council is simply not ready to make a decision on the whole package of budget-related issues. We need to continue the consultations in between sessions and try to resolve the problem before the CSP November session.

Another issue that resulted in some discord was the initiative of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Germany, the Czech Republic and Japan on changing the rules of procedure of the Advisory Body on Administrative and Financial Matters (ABAF). Like a number of other delegations in this hall, we cannot agree to some individual provisions of the document submitted for consideration to the Executive Council. First, we believe that the States Parties have an inalienable right to appoint those experts to the ABAF whom they consider qualified and generally suitable for the job. Second, an opportunity to remove any objectionable expert from the ABAF will create a precedent for other international organisations and could undermine the status of ABAF as an independent body that is relied upon to give unbiased recommendations. In harmonising the ABAF Rules of Procedure, we need to take into account the best practices of the independent administrative and budget bodies of other international organisations. In this connection, we presented our amendments to the draft and started discussing them with the authors of this initiative and other interested parties with a view to reaching consensus.

Mr Chairperson,

I would not like to end my report on this low note. There are many items on the OPCW agenda on which we can work based on consensus.

Recently, an important step was taken towards establishing OPCW control over new highly toxic chemicals. Two proposals will be submitted to the 24th CSP session. The first is Russian and the second is presented jointly by the United States, Canada and the Netherlands. They concern additions to Schedule 1 substances listed in the Chemical Weapons Convention. We would like to use this opportunity to inform the member states of the Executive Council of the progress achieved in this area in between sessions, which will become part of the preparations for discussing this issue at the CSP session.

As for other items on the agenda, the Russian delegation will discuss them during the current session in order of priority.

I would like you to distribute this report as an official document of the 92nd session of the OPCW Executive Council.

http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3844035?p_p_id=101_INSTANCE_cKNonkJE02Bw&_101_INSTANCE_cKNonkJE02Bw_languageId=en_GB




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