US blames Russia for latest chemical incident in Syria, regardless of who carried it out
Tillerson produced his accusations against Moscow while speaking at a conference in Paris, designed to a create the ‘International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons.’ The meeting, hosted by France, had the stated aim of designing a mechanism to target those deemed responsible for chemical attacks worldwide, but largely in Syria. The 24 nations that participated in the gathering agreed to work more closely on the issue and impose sanctions on alleged perpetrators.
Just ahead of the event, reports emerged of a new chemical incident in Syria, in which it is alleged that over 20 civilians were injured in a possible chlorine gas attack in East Ghouta on Monday.
The reports have been produced by controversial pro-militant sources, namely the White Helmets and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), and have not yet been independently verified. The toxic substance was allegedly delivered through unguided rockets.
“Only yesterday more than 20 civilians, mostly children, were victims of an apparent chlorine gas attack,” Tillerson said, adding that the attacks “raise serious concerns that Bashar al-Assad may be continuing to use chemical weapons against his own people.”
Moreover, the top US diplomat directly accused Russia of any chemical weapons-related incidents, regardless of who is actually responsible.
“Whoever conducted the attacks Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in eastern Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons since Russia became involved in Syria,” he stated.
Russia’s responsibility for every incident of this sort, according to Tillerson, originates from the fact that Russia participated in brokering the landmark “Framework for elimination of Syrian chemical weapons” agreement, which ensured destruction of Syrian chemical stockpile under international supervision.
“Russia’s failure to resolve the chemical weapons issue in Syria calls into question its relevance to the resolution of the overall crisis,” Tillerson said, claiming that since the destruction of the stockpile there’s been “mounting evidence” that Syria “continues to illicitly possess chemical weapons and use them against its own people.”
The official then accused Russia of covering up the chemical incidents, commonly attributed despite inconclusive evidence to the Syrian government, by vetoing a couple of UNSC resolutions.
“There is simply no denying that Russia, by shielding its Syrian ally, has breached its commitments to the United States as a framework guarantor,” he added.
Moscow indeed vetoed last year a UNSC resolution drafted by the US, which sought to extend the mandate of the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) mission beyond November 17, 2017. It did so after repeatedly criticizing the mission’s methods for “gross deviations from the high CWC [Chemical Weapons Convention] standards,” its reluctance to actually perform investigation on the ground, and other flaws.
Russia has warned against blindly pinning all the blame for everything chemical weaponry-related in Syria on the country’s government, advocating the presumption of innocence principle, and urging proper international investigations.
Earlier on Tuesday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov slammed the conference on chemical weapons in Paris as a US attempt to create its own “quasi-collective” organ instead of using already existing and truly international institutions to pursue its own agenda.
“Quasi-collective approach, or, in fact, gathering up the states who cannot go against Euro-grands and the US is a direct violation of the prerogatives of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a blow to the UN platform,” Ryabkov said.
“We believe that the result of such sort of “exercises” will be only further partition of the international community,” he warned. “Authors of such ideas and initiatives should really consider the consequences.”