Russia didn’t pressure JIM, but urged professional probe of Syria chemical attack – Foreign Ministry

Russia didn’t pressure JIM, but urged professional probe of Syria chemical attack – Foreign Ministry
The OPCW-UN probe into the Khan Shaykhun chemical incident showed disregard to the Chemical Convention’s guidelines and borders on “dilettantism,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said, rejecting the chief investigator’s accusations that Moscow somehow pressured him.

The head of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), Edmond Mulet, in an interview with the New York Times Thursday, claimed the criticism voiced by Moscow, regarding his investigation into the April chemical incident in northern Syria, was allegedly driven solely by the desire to protect the Syrian government. Mulet went even further, and speculated that Russia’s calls for a proper and fair investigation, which would meet the Chemical Weapons Convention standards, were allegedly motivated by some sort of knowledge on the true nature of the incident.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry firmly rejected Mulet’s allegations, stating, the official was only trying to whitewash his own reputation, shaken by the improper investigation of the Khan Shaykhun chemical incident.

“We believe that the tone and, most importantly, the essence of the escapades against Russia are unacceptable for an international official at his level. It’s evident to us that he’s obviously trying to save his severely tarnished reputation in this fashion,” the ministry responded in a statement.

Mulet also claimed that Russia allegedly warned him, that “if you don’t do it this way, we will not accept your conclusions.” The Foreign Ministry said Moscow had only urged JIM to conduct a proper investigation and consider all the versions, instead of just persisting in pinning the blame on the Syrian government.

“During the consultations on September 7 in Moscow, initiated by Mr. E. Mulet himself, as well as during further contacts between him and our diplomats in New York, no one from the Russian side tried to impose any conclusions, which suit Russia, on the Mechanism. In fact, in response to an official request from the JIM, we only voiced our thoughts on how the Mechanism could improve its work, taking into consideration its previous mistakes,” the statement reads. “The main recommendation was to act in strict compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).”

The Joint Investigative Mechanism and Mulet, however, concentrated their efforts on “proving” the version voiced by Washington and other western capitals – well ahead of any investigation – that the incident was a result of a Syrian airstrike with chemical munitions, the ministry said. All the other versions, including the possible staged nature of the incident, were effectively ignored. Mulet preferred to conduct an investigation from afar, and de-facto barred the experts from taking samples at the Shayrat Airbase, allegedly used to stage the attack, when they finally made it there late in October, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said further.

“Such [a] selective approach and disregard for CWC standards have played a cruel joke with Mulet. The report he produced is of a very low professional level, bordering on dilettantism,” the statement reads.

While Moscow presented its concerns over the standard of JIM’s report, backing it with “figures and facts,” Mulet completely ignored the Russian evaluation. While presenting the report at the UN Security Council (UNSC), he did not make reference to Moscow’s version. Instead, he praised his commission as a truly “independent, impartial and highly professional” body, the ministry said. “As if he was trying to convince himself and others in it,” it added.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry urged JIM to take Moscow’s assessments, circulated as an official document of the UNSC and the UN General Assembly, under serious consideration. “If Mr. Mulet does not agree with them, he should provide convincing and well-grounded objections instead of making insinuations in the press,” the ministry concluded.