Moscow slams US ‘propaganda attack’ over Syria chemical weapons ahead of Sochi peace talks

Moscow slams US ‘propaganda attack’ over Syria chemical weapons ahead of Sochi peace talks
Washington’s attempt to pin the blame for Syrian chemical attacks on Moscow is a “propaganda attack” aimed at tarnishing the country’s image and derailing the upcoming Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi.

Russia is fuming at the audacity of the latest US accusations of Moscow’s “ultimate” complicity in all alleged chemical attacks in Syria, voiced by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

“In essence, a massive propaganda attack was conducted with the purpose of slandering Russia on the world stage and undermining efforts for a peaceful settlement in Syria,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. Washington is continuing in its attempts to get the international community “accustomed to the idea that our country, which – unlike the US – has destroyed its stockpiles of chemical weapons, not only condones their use in Syria but in general is always guilty of everything.”

While the US officials’ disregard for the “elementary norms of ethics” is nothing new, with latest insinuations Tillerson and Haley have “excelled themselves,” the ministry noted.

During a 29-nation meeting in Paris on Tuesday – to which Russia was not invited – Rex Tillerson accused the Syrian government of launching yet another chemical attack on its people. By coincidence, just ahead of the ‘International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons’ forum, reports surfaced of an alleged chlorine gas attack in East Ghouta. Tillerson used this reported tragic event as a springboard to charge Russia.

“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,” Tillerson stated.

Moscow, which called an emergency UN Security Council meeting to discuss new allegations of the use of chemical weapons Syria, on Tuesday yet again proposed a mechanism to replace the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose mandate expired in November. Previously JIM handled UN investigations into the use of chemical weapons in Syria but has failed to produce objective reports on chemical attacks, including the April incident in Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province. Instead, Moscow has been proposing to establish an objective investigative mechanism to probe all allegations of chemical attacks in Syria “based on impeccable and irrefutable data.”

Washington immediately dismissed that proposal, while Ambassador Haley speaking at the UNSC on Tuesday accused Russia of “killing” JIM. She further echoed Tillerson’s statement. “We know that for years Russia has looked the other way while their Syrian friends use these despicable weapons of war. Russia is complicit in the Assad regime’s atrocities.”

American accusations, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, run “contrary to common sense.” The very “fact” that the latest chemical incident indeed took place has not even been confirmed yet. The reports were produced by controversial pro-militant sources, namely the White Helmets and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). Moscow noted that the “discredited” White Helmets have a long history of “collaborating with terrorist groups” and have repeatedly been caught out on the “dissemination of outright lies.”

“We were hypocritically accused of unwillingness to investigate incidents with poisonous substances in Syria. Although it was the Americans, as it became clear long ago, who obstructed the objective investigation,” the ministry noted. “We see that Washington is not interested in establishing the truth, as it does not accept any points of view that do not coincide with its own.” Russia accused Washington of passing judgment on other countries based on “their geopolitical ambitions” and by relying on “behind-the-scenes agreements with anti-government militants.”

Moscow also advised Washington’s allies who gathered in Paris to stay well clear of the US endeavor or at least be aware of its true intent. “We call on our colleagues to think about what the US is trying to do, and to distance themselves from this risky adventure, which has nothing in common with the goals announced by its organizers,” the ministry said.

Delegates of 29 countries gathered in Paris on Tuesday to spell out a joint strategy to battle what they called impunitive chemical weapons use – in an attempt to possibly impose unilateral punitive measures against those they implicate in the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Russia called the Paris meeting an “attempt to circumvent the OPCW and through slander to hammer together a bloc against Damascus.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov earlier described the US’ groundless accusations as a clear provocation ahead of Syrian National Dialogue Congress scheduled to be held in Russia’s Sochi, January 29-30.

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