Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen in the Arria-fomula meeting of the Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 2118, September 28, 2020

28.09.2020 - Speech

Check Against Delivery

The Yiddish language has a word that has entered the English language: chutzpah. I know you all know what chutzpah means. I think this is what best describes today's event. As a German idealist, when I saw that we have the OPCW on the agenda, I thought this is very good because now our Russian and Chinese friends finally have an ambition to strengthen the Chemical Weapons Convention, support the OPCW and join us in reminding the Syrian regime that they have to comply with resolution 2118 and that they have to cooperate with the IIT. But when I read the concept note, I see that our idealism is not in the right place. What is the objective here? This is what I am saying about chutzpah: Russia and China are again trying to undercut the credibility of the OPCW, present alternative facts and spread doubts in order to undercut the OPCW again. This is, unfortunately, a Russian tactic that we have seen when they are caught or when their friends are caught committing crimes or violating international law. Then they go into a counteroffensive and try to present alternative facts and defend their friends.

So coming back to the concept note, when you know about the Chemical Weapons Convention and what happened in Syria, you are really disappointed that there is nothing about the more than 1,000 victims who died a horrible death when the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against them. There is no mourning of the victims here, just like last week when we had Syria on the agenda. There is no compassion on your side for the hundreds of thousands of victims that have been tortured in Assad's prisons. There is no emotion there when the witnesses from the trial in Koblenz are quoted about all the mass graves that have been detected.

Going back to the OPCW and the concept note, there is nothing about the victims. There is nothing about what the UK just said about the insufficient declaration of Syria. There is nothing about Syria continuing to use chemical weapons after 2013. There is nothing about the undercutting by Russia of the JIM. There is nothing about the reasons why Russia and China fight the OPCW's vast majorities that want to try hard to find the perpetrators who are responsible for the use of chemical weapons. There is nothing about their criticism of the IIT. There was an Informal Interactive Dialogue earlier this year under the Estonian Presidency to discuss the IIT, and Russia and China decided not to participate and take the chance to learn more.

There is nothing in the concept note about the cyber-attack that Russian intelligence officers committed in 2018 in The Hague against the OPCW headquarters and where the Russians were caught. There is nothing in the concept note mentioning that Russia itself is using chemical weapons and trying to hide that. I only need to remind you of the poisoning of Mr. Skripal and his daughter or another chemical, polonium, that was used against Mr. Litvinenko. You can also look to the use of Novichok against Mr. Navalny on Russian territory.

Unfortunately, Russia is always trying to cover up these crimes, have the use of chemical weapons accepted as the new normal, spread misinformation, change narratives regularly and cover up their murders.

The PR of Russia said there are death threats against the briefers here. Talking about death threats, let me use this occasion to honor the memory of Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist and critic of the war in Chechnya and corruption in Russia, who was killed in Russia. Russia was sentenced two years ago by the European Court of Human Rights for not investigating this. Also, let me remind you of Natalya Estemirova, the journalist and human rights activist who was killed in 2009. Until today, the perpetrator is still unknown. Let's also honor the 300 deaths of MH17 victims of the Russian Buk missile. Again, Russia is covering up and presenting alternative facts.

We heard Russia criticizing Germany the other day for not reacting immediately to the request for legal assistance. I wish Russia would react to the request for legal assistance and help to see that Igor Girkin, the instigator behind the Russian occupation of Donbas who was celebrating the downing of MH17 online, is finally standing trial.

Back to the Chemical Weapons Convention and Russia's use of Novichok. After Navalny was poisoned, Russian misinformation and alternative facts set in again and other countries were made responsible for the poisoning. At some stage, my country, Germany, was made responsible. According to Le Monde and The New York Times, President Putin offered another explanation suggesting that Navalny may have poisoned himself. On social media, Navalny reacted to this and he said that it's a good theory. “I think it's worth a closer study,” Navalny said. “I boiled Novichok in the kitchen, quietly took a sip of it in the plane and fell into a coma. Before that, I agreed with my wife, friends and colleagues that if the health ministry insisted on taking me to Germany, that they would never permit that to happen. Dying in an Omsk hospital and ending up in an Omsk morgue where the cause of death would be listed as 'lived long enough' was the ultimate goal of my plan.” But Putin, he said, outplayed him.

I want to end my gloomy intervention on a positive note. This council has the responsibility to prevent such heinous crimes from happening again, as we saw in Syria. We must support and not undercut the OPCW. It is the best ally in the fight against violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention. We must not accept that the use of chemical weapons becomes the new normal. Not in Syria, not in Salisbury and not in Omsk.


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