UNITED NATIONS (Sputnik) – JIM's head Edmond Mulet has told Sputnik that countries should act in a united front to stop the use of chemical weapons from happening instead of using the chemical files for their own political gains, stressing that attempts to influence the Mechanism’s work has come from direct contact with Council members.
“We are pulled from one side and then from the other, telling us how to do our business. If you don’t do it this way you have no credibility, if you don't follow our instructions because we are a member of the P5 [Permanent members of the United Nations Security Council] then we will not accept your conclusions,” Mulet said.
Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Attack
On October 26, the JIM presented its report on the probe to the Security Council, blaming the government of Syria’s President Bashar Assad for the April 4 sarin attack in the Idlib province and holding Daesh terror group (banned in Russia) accountable for using sulfur mustard in Syria in September 2016.
Commenting on the report, Edmond Mulet told Sputnik that visiting the site of the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack could bring some additional value, but evidence collected by the JIM is solid and corroborated.
"We are very confident in the two cases [Khan Sheikhoun and Umm Hawsh]. It would have been some value going there but nothing that would really determine or change all the elements that we already have," Mulet said.
Mulet has also responded to Moscow's calls to conduct an on-site investigation, as the JIM probe lacks answers to key questions, saying that the situation in Khan Sheikhoun was and still remains very difficult, with a number of military clashes there. He added that he did not think anybody from his team would volunteer to go there, nor would it really be necessary in light of evidence received by the Mechanism.
Mulet has also commented on the fact-finding issue, saying that the Khan Sheikhoun incident in Syria should change the existing procedure.
"If there is a new mandate, to give the authorization to the JIM to conduct its own investigation in parallel or simultaneously as the OPCW Fact-Finding mission. In that sense, we would really advance and we would win time instead of waiting for their result in order for us to start working," Mulet said.
As per its existing mandate, the Mechanism launches its investigation once it receives a report from the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission. Mulet advocated for changing this practice citing the case of Syria's Khan Sheikhoun, when such a report was only received on June 29, meaning that time was lost before JIM could start its investigation.
The report on the chemical attack in Syria "relies on the findings" of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) in Syria that was published in June following the investigation into the incident and revealed that the victims had been exposed to sarin, a toxic substance, or a sarin-like substance. The FFM did not send its staff directly to the site, but completed the probe by conducting interviews, collecting evidence and samples, such as video footage of the incident and hair from a dead goat found at the scene and specified that it was unable to "implement a complete chain of custody, by the team, for samples from source."
Following the report's release, the Russian Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Industry and Trade have presented their own report on chemical attacks in Syria, debunking all three main points in the JIM report.
Idlib Chemical Attack
The Khan Sheikhoun incident that took place in Syria's Idlib province on April 4, 2017, left 80 people dead and injured 200 more. While the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, supported by the United States, immediately blamed the Syrian government for using the chemical weapons against civilian population, Damascus has strongly denied the allegations and reiterated that it does not possess any chemical weapons' arsenal, the full destruction of which was confirmed by the OPCW.
Commenting on the accusations against the Syrian government, Russia has multiple times reiterated its position that all chemical weapons were taken out of Syria in mid-2014 with Washington's assistance and called for a thorough probe into the Khan Sheikhoun events.
Despite Washington immediately blaming Damascus for the alleged chemical attack even before the probe into it was launched, the US has admitted that terrorists in the country are in possession of such weapons.
According to the UN-OPCW report, the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad is allegedly responsible for the use of sarin in the Khan Shaykhun incident, while Daesh terrorist group is responsible for the use of sulfur mustard in Umm Hawsh. The Russian Permanent Mission to the United Nations has commented on the document, stating that the report looked more like an amateur document, and was based mostly on assumptions and the selective use of facts.