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12 Jul, 2019 21:41

OPCW report on 2018 Syria chemical ‘attack’ politicized, new probe may be needed – Russian envoy

OPCW report on 2018 Syria chemical ‘attack’ politicized, new probe may be needed – Russian envoy

The OPCW report on the 2018 chemical “attack” in Syria’s Douma is inconsistent and was clearly made to fit the pre-existing political narrative, Russia’s envoy to the organization has said, adding that a new probe might be needed.

The report, released early in March, was the main topic of a large press conference held by the Russian permanent representative at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Aleksandr Shulgin, and other officials in The Hague on Friday.

The fact-finding mission into the April 7, 2018 alleged chemical incident in the Damascus suburb, Douma, said that “molecular chlorine” was likely used, and also claimed that the canisters with it were dropped from a high altitude – implying that the Syrian government was behind it.

The blame was actually put on Damascus within hours after the “attack” without any investigation or proof, and it was used as a pretext for a massive US-led airstrike against Syrian government forces.

The report itself, as well as the style of work of the organization’s experts, have raised a lot of questions – and failed to provide reliable answers. The head of the fact-finding mission spent only a few hours in Damascus – never actually visiting Douma and talking to the witnesses – spending the rest of the time in a neighboring country instead, the diplomat explained.

That is really disheartening and creates an impression that the experts were required to gather only such information, that fits into a certain pattern.

The diplomat berated such “vicious methods” of work by the fact-finding missions, stating that it “preferred to work with NGOs, terrorist groups, while serious and reliable information from the Syrian government and eyewitnesses has been ignored.” Such a work style only reinforces the impression that the investigators have been trying to “to fit the events into a certain political narrative” instead of actually establishing the truth.

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One of the major flaws of the report is the assertion that the gas canisters fell from a high altitude – that implies the use of aircraft – given not only the lack of any solid proof, but the existence of the completely opposite opinions on the matter. Shortly after the OPCW report release, an internal memo by OPCW engineers was leaked, which suggested the canisters were likely just placed at the site of the “attack” and had not fallen from anywhere. Still, the final report did not include such information, citing unspecified external “experts” instead, who argued the canisters came from the skies.

“We’d love to get familiar with the reports from the three independent experts, who drew the conclusion that the canisters with chlorine fell from a high altitude,” Shulgin said. “Our experts and international scientists will study them, and if these reports are assertive and fact-based, why not to agree with them. And if not – the probe must be reopened.”

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The murky probe into the Douma incident has yet again exposed the deep crisis, the international and supposedly impartial chemical watchdog got itself into, Shulgin concluded.

“The OPCW is living through a deep crisis with a disarray of its activity, extreme politicization. And it has not happened today but long before. The practice of making a consensus decision is entirely buried,” the diplomat said.

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