U.N. report distorted and one-sided: Moscow; Syria calls it incomplete

Syria has handed over fresh material implicating the opposition of using chemical weapons to Russia, which has expressed its disappointment with a United Nations (U.N.) report that establishes use of sarin gas on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21.

After talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in Damascus on Wednesday, visiting Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the “corresponding materials were handed to the Russian side”. He said Moscow would “examine the Syrian materials implicating the militants with the utmost seriousness”. He did not offer any detail about the nature of the material.

Soon after the talks in Damascus, it became evident that the spirit of cooperation between Russia and the U.S. was evaporating fast — both had worked closely in Geneva to broker a deal to eliminate Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons.

Harsh language

Mr. Ryabkov used unusually harsh language to slam the U.N. report — backed by the U.S. and its allies — on the chemical attack outside the Syrian capital.

“We think that report was distorted, it was one-sided, the basis of information upon which it is built is not sufficient, and in any case we would need to learn and know more on what happened beyond and above that incident of August 21.” He stressed that “without the full picture, we cannot but call the nature of conclusions drawn by U.N. experts as politicised, biased and unilateral”.

Responding to the criticism, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, “Nobody can question the objectivity of the people appointed by the U.N.”

During a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Mr. Ryabkov observed that Moscow saw the Syrian issue as the “pivot of world politics”, Syrian state news agency SANA reported. He affirmed the need for the continuation of “deep and practical consultation and coordination between the two countries’ leaderships”.

The Russian criticism notwithstanding, the 38-page U.N. report acknowledges that the warheads used in the chemical attack “could be original or improvised”. Besides, it concedes that evidence at the site, visited by others before and during its investigation, might have been “moved” or even “manipulated”.

On its part, Syria has been critical about the release of the report, as other suspected incidents have not been investigated.

Bashar al-Jaafari, Syria’s permanent representative to the U.N., said during a session of the General Assembly on Tuesday, which had been convened to hear Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s update on the August 21 investigation, that the partial release of the report could be misleading. He pointed out that the secretariat could have waited to allow the investigators to complete their probe into all allegations listed in the August 15 agreement with Damascus. These included investigation into the March 19 incident in Khan al-Assal, on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

Mr. Jaafari said the release of the incomplete report had served the interventionist agenda of some countries, which seek to politicise the probe and demonise the Syrian government. He pointed out that his government had on several occasions cautioned against the use of chemical weapons by groups in Syria with al-Qaeda affiliations.