Share This Post

Press Releases

CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT HEARS DELEGATIONS REJECT ACCUSATIONS BY RUSSIA OF THEIR INVOLVEMENT IN THE PRODUCTION OF NOVICHOK NERVE AGENT

Swiss President of the Conference on Disarmament Urges Flexibility and Creativity in Establishing Subsidiary Bodies in her First Address to Member States

20 March 2018

The Conference on Disarmament this morning heard an update from the United Kingdom on steps taken to independently investigate the alleged use of Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury on 4 March, and also heard strong rejections by Slovakia and Sweden of the Russian allegations claiming that those, and other countries, had been involved in its production. The Conference also heard from its new President, Sabrina Dallafior, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, who urged creativity and flexibility in finding ways to bridge the differences in the operationalization of the decision 2119 on the establishment of subsidiary bodies.

In its update to the Conference on Disarmament on the investigation into the nerve agent used in the attempted assassination in Salisbury on 4 March, United Kingdom said it was continuing with the independent verification of the analysis carried out by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, and that independent investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had already arrived to the country. The results of the testing of the samples, to be undertaken by an independent international laboratory, were expected in a fortnight. The United Kingdom would resist attempts by Russia to muddy the water and, with the encouragement and support it had received from its partners and allies around the world, it would tackle the threat posed by Russia to the collective security.

In its right of reply, Russia noted that, after it had destroyed its chemical weapons, research into them continued in the United Kingdom, and possibly in a series of other countries.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the laboratories for the production of nerve agents of the category in question remained in a whole series of other countries; Russia also did not exclude the possibility that the United Kingdom itself had the potential to produce the said nerve agent. Russia insisted on the United Kingdom’s obligation to provide concrete evidence and all the information required, and would only engage in a genuine dialogue on the basis of certified samples, witness statements and other investigative materials.

Slovakia rejected the absurd allegations made by Russia that the nerve agent could have originated in Slovakia and urged Russia to urgently disclose all the information on its Novichok programme to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Sweden forcefully rejected the unacceptable unfounded allegation made by Russia that Sweden was one of the four countries likely to have produced Novichok nerve agent that might have been used in Salisbury. The claim by Russia should be recognized for what it was: an example of manipulating information in the public space by releasing a highly speculative information supported by no proof whatsoever.

United States stressed that the statements by Russia accusing other countries were rather disturbing and urged Russia to stop the use of propaganda to deflect the attention from the source of the problem. Norway was deeply disturbed by the first offensive use of chemical weapons on the territory of a European state after the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and said that those responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable.

In her first address to the Conference, Sabrina Dallafior, President of the Conference on Disarmament and Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, paid tribute to the efforts of her two predecessors, Ambassador Aryasinha of Sri Lanka and Ambassador Bard of Sweden. To date, the Conference had successfully identified five coordinators to lead different subsidiary bodies with full respect for the principle of equitable regional representation, and had defined the core elements of the subsidiary bodies’ timetable. Only one step remained to give a practical shape to the positive developments that had materialized under the Sri Lankan and Swedish presidencies; it was not an easy one, but it called for the collective efforts.

The President said she was encouraged by the recognition by many Member States that the differences in how to operationalize decision CD/2119 were not insurmountable, and emphasized that the adoption of this decision was an indication that after more than twenty years of paralysis, the Conference was willing to look at practical options to take substantive work forward. The incapacity to operationalize this decision would be difficult to understand, noted Ambassador Dallafior. The first priority of the Swiss Presidency therefore was to consult broadly with a view to reconciling the outstanding differences in a manner that would meet the requirements of all the parties. The President urged creativity and flexibility in finding ways to bridge the differences, given the time constraints.

Belarus was deeply concerned and anxious about the highest level of mistrust and the growing hostility between the States which were the most important participants in the international security system, and emphasized the importance of not crossing the line of irreversible consequences for the civilization. Turkey noted that the lack of confidence and trust had burdened the Conference in taking action on its decision 2119 and Turkey was committed to advancing this work. Viet Nam remarked that the Conference was now on the threshold of resuming substantive work and extra efforts were needed to overcome divergence among the Member States to implement its own decision 2119. Indonesia strongly supported the decision CD/2119 as it represented a viable avenue towards refocusing the Conference and resuming substantive work, and stressed that the establishment and the work of substantive bodies should be done in accordance with the agenda of the Conference.

The next public meeting of the Conference on Disarmament will be determined at a later stage.

Statements

Belarus recalled the tragedy of Khatyn, a small village destroyed on 22 March 1943 which, for the generations of Belarusians, was a symbol of the horror and suffering of civilians in a war. That was why Belarus was deeply concerned and anxious about the highest level of mistrust and the growing hostility between the States which were the most important participants in the international security system. Belarus believed that historical memory was the best vaccine against a new war, and emphasized the importance of not crossing the line of irreversible consequences for the civilization. The Conference on Disarmament must, in the current conditions, be the platform for reducing tensions and building trust and confidence, stressed Belarus.

United Kingdom said that independent investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had arrived to the United Kingdom on 19 March to being their investigation into the nerve agent used in the attempted assassination in Salisbury on 4 March. The samples they would collect, including the environmental ones, would be sent for testing to a highly reputable international laboratory selected by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; the results would be available in about two weeks. The aim was to independently verify the analysis carried out by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down. The United Kingdom was committed to fully complying with its obligation under the Chemical Weapons Convention. Russia had not provided any meaningful response to the United Kingdom’s request for an explanation and was therefore clearly in breach of this instrument. The United Kingdom would resist any attempts by Russia to muddy the water. The Foreign Secretary had revealed on 18 March that it had information indicating that, within the last decade, Russia had investigated ways of delivering nerve agents, likely for assassinations; part of this programme had included producing and stockpiling quantities of Novichok. This was a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The United Kingdom was encouraged by the international support it had received from its partners and allies around the world to tackle the threat posed by Russia to the collective security.

Turkey said that the Conference had a very special responsibility in the international fora, which its members must carry on its shoulders. With the turn of the millennium, the world had not become a safer place, but new threats had emerged. The lack of confidence and trust had burdened the Conference in taking action on its decision 2119 and Turkey was committed to advancing the work.

Norway expressed solidarity with the people and the Government of the United Kingdom in dealing with the consequences of the shocking attack in Salisbury. Norway was deeply disturbed by the first offensive use of chemical weapons on the territory of a European state after the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and urged Russia to provide the answers. Those responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable.

Viet Nam had a consistent policy of upholding peace, opposing war and supporting disarmament particularly nuclear disarmament. Addressing non-proliferation must be coupled with a substantive progress in nuclear disarmament and the complete removal of nuclear weapons. The Conference was now on the threshold of resuming substantive work and extra efforts were needed to overcome divergence among the Member States to implement its own decision 2119.

Indonesia said that the agenda for disarmament must be put back on course and stressed that nuclear disarmament was critical for international peace and security. Indonesia strongly supported the decision CD/2119 as it represented a viable avenue towards refocusing the Conference and resuming substantive work, and stressed that the establishment and the work of substantive bodies should be done in accordance with the agenda of the Conference.

Slovakia condemned in strongest terms the use of nerve agent in Salisbury and stressed that any use of chemical weapons anywhere represented a violation of international law and human dignity. Slovakia rejected the absurd allegations made by Russia that the nerve agent could have originated in Slovakia and urged Russia to urgently disclose all the information on its Novichok programme to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Sweden condemned in the strongest terms the attempted murder on the United Kingdom soil using the nerve agent, which was unprecedented in recent European history. Sweden forcefully rejected the unacceptable unfounded allegation made by the Russian Foreign Ministry this past Friday, that Sweden was one of the four countries likely to have produced Novichok nerve agent that might have been used in the attempted murder of Mr. Skripol and his daughter in Salisbury. The same allegation had been made at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague. The claim by Russia should be recognized for what it was: an example of manipulating information in the public space by releasing a highly speculative information supported by no proof whatsoever. Sweden strongly urged Russia to respond legitimate questions raised by the United Kingdom, a fellow State party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Russia said in its right of reply that the information on the Salisbury incident had been released through the media and that to date, Russia had not received any samples or information about the investigation. Instead, it had received an ultimatum, and the whole presumption of innocence had been forgotten. Russia had expected that the United Kingdom would comply with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons procedures from the very outset; also, the United Kingdom had not used the different instruments of the Council of Europe concerning mutual legal assistance on criminal matters.

Turning to the toxic substances and the nerve agent in this context, Russia said that after it had destroyed its chemical weapons, research into them continued in the United Kingdom, and possibly in a series of other countries. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the laboratories for the production of nerve agents of this category remained in a whole series of other countries. In addition, right next to Salisbury is the Government’s laboratory at the Porton Down. If London was convinced that the nerve agent in question was indeed Novichok, then at the minimum they had the formula and the samples of this agent. Russia did not exclude the possibility that the United Kingdom itself had the potential to produce the nerve agent, while one of the poisonous gasses had existed in the United States for a long time. Russia had not been conducting any research whatsoever into the Novichok.

Russia failed to understand the legal basis for the independent analysis of the United Kingdom’s own investigation and insisted on the United Kingdom’s obligation to provide concrete evidence and all the information required. Russia drew attention to the fact that the identification of the chemical components allegedly used in the Salisbury incident had been manufactured at the Porton Down laboratory, on the basis of which they had worked on chemical weapons in the past. Russia reiterated that it would only engage in a genuine dialogue on the basis of certified samples, witness statements and other investigative materials. Russia was open to such a dialogue, but was doubtful of the trust in the United Kingdom, recalling that recently, the British public had believed the words of its Prime Minister Tony Blair who had led his country into the war against Iraq on the belief that Saddam Hussein was in possession of chemical weapons; it had turned later on that he had been set up by its own allies.

United States stressed that the statements by Russia accusing other countries were rather disturbing and urged Russia to stop the use of propaganda to deflect the attention from the source of the problem. Russia should stop blaming others and come forward with the requested information.

United Kingdom said that Russia’s response was typical as it was deflecting the attention from the real issue, and injecting half-truths and half-lies. The United Kingdom was following the Chemical Weapons Convention explicitly, and its representative stressed that its actions had been consistent with its other international legal obligations. Russia on the other hand was in breach of this Convention, and had violated its fundamental principle contained in article one, that prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. The United Kingdom had the right to lead its own response.

Russia, in the right of reply, wondered how the unreasonable polemic on the Skripal case could assist the Conference in meeting its objectives. Russia had said from the outset that Russia had not been involved in this incident, so what more did the United Kingdom want? Russia had requested the samples and information from the United Kingdom, but none were forthcoming, instead it was faced with loud accusation of using the chemical weapons which Russia did not have. How was it possible to accuse a State without any evidence whatsoever? Russia had nothing to admit because it was not guilty nor would it respond to ultimatums.

United Kingdom reiterated that it was following the prescriptions of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in ensuring independent and impartial investigation, which would be beneficial to the world as a whole. It was in the Conference on Disarmament that the Chemical Weapons Convention had been negotiated; the negotiation of other disarmament treaties required trust, and the current situation showed how little trust could be placed in Russia.

United States urged Russia to end the practice of blaming other countries as it only undermined how little credibility Russia had left.

Russia in the right of reply, said that the Conference on Disarmament was not able to solve the issue being discussed. Providing evidence was a normal international practice, stressed Russia, and wondered why the stubborn refusal to do so. Russia was not accusing anyone of anything, to the contrary, Russia was the one being accused.

United Kingdom stressed that the world community had put in place measures and set up organizations, such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to enforce the rules-based international system which underpinned the collective security.

For use of the information media; not an official record

DC18.022E

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Share This Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>