UK calls Russia, Syria’s watchdog OPCW briefing ‘stunt’

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: British ambassador to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has described a briefing by Russia and Syria as “a stunt”, saying the U.K. will not attend it with its allies.

“The OPCW is not a theatre,” Ambassador Peter Wilson said in a statement Thursday.

“Russia’s decision to misuse it is yet another Russian attempt to undermine the OPCW’s work, and in particular the work of its Fact Finding Mission investigating chemical weapons use in Syria; the director general of the OPCW has called on Russia and Syria to work with the Fact Finding Mission, and to wait for its report. Russia and Syria have ignored his concerns,” Wilson said.

The briefing by Russia and Syria was to suggest the alleged chemical attack in a Damascus suburb on 7 April was a “staged incident…with the participation of unwitting comedians and other witnesses from the famous ‘White Helmets’.”

Bashar al-Assad regime forces struck targets in the Damascus suburb’s Douma district on April 7 using a poisonous gas, which left at least 78 civilians dead, according to the White Helmets, a local civil defense agency.

Following the incident, the U.S., U.K. and France jointly launched airstrikes, targeting the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capabilities in retaliation for the suspected chemical attack.

The strikes targeted the Assad regime’s chemical weapons research center near Damascus, a chemical weapons warehouse and a command center related to chemical weapons located west of Homs.

“Russia and Syria’s briefing at the OPCW premises today is a stunt. The director general has opposed Russia’s decision to host this briefing today. The U.K. will not attend, in company with our allies,” Wilson said.

Wilson said that “describing chemical weapons victims as ‘comedians’ is despicable”.

“It shows the utter disregard Russia and Syria have for the suffering of the Syrian people, and indeed the global norm against chemical weapons use,” he added.

Also touching on the “widespread reports of intimidation of witnesses to the Douma attack”, Wilson said they are a cause of real concern.

“The director general [of the OPCW] has asked states to supply information about the Douma attack to his Fact Finding Mission. Russia and Syria should do so, instead of waging a propaganda campaign of misinformation,” Wilson said.

“We will not compromise with states that seek to degrade the structures and treaties that keep us safe,” he added. (AA)