Russia’s UN representative says the newly unveiled report on the chemical attack of August 21 in Syria offers no “bulletproof data or conclusions” on who ordered it. The US and UK say the study confirms the regime was behind the attack.
“The report is diligent but very technical. It avoids categorical judgments and inferences, and it needs to be studied,” Vitaly Churkin told the Russian media at the UN headquarters in New York.
“As people examine it, everyone can draw their own conclusion, but I hope that won’t be driven by political motives.”
US President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, said in a statement the technical evidence of high-grade sarin revealed in the report “reinforces our assessment that these attacks were carried out by the Syrian regime, as only they had the capability to mount an attack in this manner.”
Earlier, Washington envoy to the UN Samantha Power said the study proved that “only the regime” had the capacity to carry out the attack on a Damascus suburb that the US claims took more than 1,400 lives. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague also said the findings were “fully consistent” with the previous British stance that Bashar Assad’s forces were responsible for the attack.
Churkin said that suggestions the attack was a rebel provocation “cannot be shrugged off”.
The 38-page report was compiled by a UN expert team, which inspected Damascus at the end of last month, and collected over 30 samples from victims and the environment. Its authors state that it found “clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin” were released on “a relatively large scale” during the August attack. The report doesn’t blame either of the sides.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has labeled the incident a “war crime”.
Churkin also told journalists “not to jump to conclusions” when questioned about whether Cyrillic alphabet markings, which were found on fragments of rockets reportedly used in the attack, proved that they were in possession of government forces. He said that UK and US assertions that rebels do not have the capacity to execute a large scale gas attack were “not grounded in reality”.
Last week, Russia and the United States put forward a proposal that would see Syria hand over its chemical weapons to international observers. Syria has also applied to join the Chemical Weapons Convention – an international treaty that regulates the destruction of such weapons – next month.