Russia: UN inspectors ignored evidence on Syria chemical attacks

UN inspectors ignored evidence on chemical weapons use in Syria secretly passed to them by Damascus, said Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister in an exclusive interview to RT. That is why the UN report is biased and needs reinvestigation, he said.

“The Syrian authorities have conducted their own sampling and investigation, analysis in terms of possible evidence of the rebels being responsible for the tragic episodes both on August 21, but beyond that also on August 22, 23 and 24,” Sergey Ryabkov told RT's Maria Finoshina, who caught up with him during his visit to Damascus to discuss these allegations.

“This is new material - new material for us. But this is not already completely new material for the UN,” Ryabkov specified, revealing that there were actually several chemical attacks in Syria in August and that the UN inspectors, headed by Swedish scientist Dr. Ake Salstrom, were informed about this, but ignored the information in their report.

“This material was discreetly handed over to Ake Salstrom, the head of the UN mission of experts here [in Syria] which came to investigate the Ghouta incidents. Salstrom was asked to look into it and eventually factor this new evidence into the final report. It never happened in fact,” Ryabkov told RT. “This is one of the reasons why we criticize the speed with which the report was released… and also an incomplete content of this report,” he said.

Moscow wants the UN inspectors to return to Syria and continue investigating in order to determine who was responsible for the chemical attack.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov

“We expect the UN Secretariat to both send Salstrom and his people back to Syria to continue investigation of the three remaining incidents, and also to write a full and comprehensive report against the background of all information they have received,” Ryabkov stressed.

He warned against the evidence provided by the Syrian and Russian sides being “simply nullified and disregarded.”

So far, Rybkov said, “one of the few areas” where the UN mission “kept its word” is that it only announced that chemical weapons were used without specifying who deployed them.

Ryabkov called on to the UN inspectors to follow the approach of the Russian expert analysis of the chemical attack that took place in Syria on March 19, which was professional and contained chemical, biological and medical analysis of the incident.

“This is the approach which should be also followed and pursued by Sellstrom's team. We invite them to do so. We think they should go back to Syria, to continue investigation and then have something different from - yes, a biased initial report,” Ryabkov stressed.

The Russian deputy FM maintained that during his two-day visit to Damascus a great job has been done as Syrian authorities are firmly set to fully fulfill all the obligations, and first of all to provide information about the complete list of chemical weapons they possess by the end of this week. 

Ryabkov shared that after the meeting with Syria's Foreign Minister his impression is that Damascus is “absolutely” aware of the consequences that could follow in case Syria fails to comply with the agreement to give up its chemical stockpiles.

At the same time he declined to comment on how many chemical weapons exactly will be given up.

“Well, let the experts speak first. It’s, you know, a sensitive thing, and I don’t believe it’s a proper moment to have a discussion on this right now. Let’s put it on rails, let that train depart, let’s have it gain speed, have some tracking, and then we’ll come back to this rather difficult issue,” Ryabkov said.

Because Russia is really concerned that this sensitive process of removing or destroying chemical weapons could be used by forces fighting against the current Syrian government, “We should also be very guarded against any provocations,” Ryabkov warned.

“We are concerned about possible provocations. We have seen it before that the moment something better, positive is out there, is looming, you will always find skurks [sic] who would try immediately to change these dynamics and establish a new reality, so to say, through a provocation,” he acknowledged.

“And it’s just amazing how little of this understanding is among those who now advocate a very different course fighting the government with weapons in their hands. It’s unforgiveable, this is the real crime which they are committing against their own people and their country,” Ryabkov concluded. 

Another Deputy Foreign Minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, told TASS on Thursday that Sergey Ryabkov met in Damascus with not only the Syrian authorities, but also with the members of a number of groups of the Syrian opposition, in particular with Qadri Jamil, the leader of Syria’s Popular Front for Change and Liberation and the leadership of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change.

These meetings took place on the territory of the Russian embassy in Damascus.

“We are ready to organize contacts, not only with the opposition, but also between the opposition groups, maybe in Moscow,” said Bogdanov, who is also the Russian presidential envoy to the Middle East.