Thursday, April 6, 2017

Maria Zakharova -- Terrorist attack in St Petersburg on April 3

5 April 201719:58

Terrorist attack in St Petersburg on April 3

The Foreign Ministry again expresses its deep condolences to the families of those killed in the April 3 terrorist attack in St Petersburg. We wish a speedy recovery to all those injured.
We are grateful to the leaders and citizens of foreign countries and the heads of international organisations who did not remain indifferent to our tragedy.
The barbarous and ugly crime in the St Petersburg metro has confirmed once again that terrorism is a deadly global threat and that it requires the utmost cohesion of the international community, immediate and, without a doubt, effective collective measures under the aegis of the UN, based on the existing foundational decisions on fighting terrorism that have come above all from the UN Security Council.
In fighting terrorism, there can be no room for so-called double standards or “hidden agendas”. It is wrong to divide terrorists into “bad” and “not so bad”. It is unacceptable to use terrorist and extremist groups for political or geopolitical purposes, for interfering in the internal affairs of other states or for destabilising “uncooperative” regimes. In the end this always leads to the escalation of the global problem of terrorism.

We are once again calling for action against terrorists in a united, powerful front and for support for the Russian initiatives on fighting terrorism at both the UN and other international organisations.
I would like to address in detail the reaction that we have received through different diplomatic channels, as well as from ordinary people. A response to our tragedy came from the US, China, EU countries, the UK, the brotherly peoples of the CIS, Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania, Estonia, India, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Israel, where in the evening of April 3, the façade of the Tel Aviv mayor’s office building was lit up in the colours of the Russian flag as a sign of solidarity with Russia, among other countries. We are grateful for their expression of support to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, EU diplomacy chief Federica Mogherini, European Council President Donald Tusk, PACE President Pedro Agramunt, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz and OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier, among many others. Thank you, thank all those who brought flowers and candles to Russian embassies throughout the world. We appreciate the unanimous condemnation of the terrorist attack by UN Security Council members.
I would like separately to thank everyone for the reaction that we have seen in Ukraine. The words of Ukrainian officials and citizens did not go unnoticed. We especially thank you for that.
Of course, the traditional nightmare could not be avoided, either. Some people in the media and social networks saw a “Russian political trail” in this inhuman act and did not refrain from outright mockery of what happened. Some mainstream media outlets, in particular, Politico and The New York Times, said the terrorist attack was “payback” for Russia’s foreign policy (while it is clear in the West that “terrorists attack freedom and democracy”). The Washington Post went even further in its evaluations. An article in this publication says that Russians should not expect the same level of empathy from the international community as it showed after the attack on Westminster Bridge in London, where four people were killed even though there were far more casualties in St Petersburg. It is simply disgusting to write such things. These media outlets can probably be expected to go even further and analyse not only the nationality of the people who were killed in terrorist attacks but also their ethnic backgrounds.
Even what I have just cited is over the top. You can’t go any further. The author of the article bluntly recognises the legitimacy of such “double standards”. He states without any qualms that, as a general rule, terrorist attacks in Europe and the US arouse far more sympathy than attacks in other countries, suggesting that few if anyone will change their avatars on social networks in solidarity with the victims of suicide bomb attacks in Baghdad. This terrible subject was taken up in another article in the same publication, alleging that fighting terrorism has become a priority for Russia and its leadership but for some reason Russians continue to get killed. They even cited some mind-boggling, incomprehensible statistics since 1970. This is a fact that you can check out.
As history shows us daily, nobody is insured against this disaster. We once again urge the international community and the media, considering their role in today’s world, to fight terrorism in all of its forms and manifestations, so as not to leave the organisers of such crimes against people any hope that they will get away with it or will be justified.
Part 2
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali

On April 13, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali will pay an official visit to Russia at the invitation of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The foreign ministers will discuss the state and prospects of expanded bilateral relations and exchange opinions on current issues on the international and regional agendas, including the fight against terrorism.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. The bilateral ties that have been developed over the past decades are marked by a high level of trust and hinge on the principles of equality, mutual respect and consideration for each other’s interests.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in a meeting of heads of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s territorial bodies

On April 1314, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend a meeting of heads of the Foreign Ministry’s territorial bodies.
Foreign Ministry territorial bodies (missions) act as a link between the Ministry’s Central Administration and the executive agencies of the Russian regions. They play a substantial role in expanding the regions’ international and foreign economic ties in the context of implementing Russia’s consolidated foreign policy line in modern conditions.
Meeting participants will focus on the more efficient performance of the Foreign Ministry’s territorial offices. They will discuss efforts to assist the regional administrations’ foreign economic activities. The participants will also exchange opinions on important issues of the missions’ work. You will be briefed on the results of this event.

Developments in Syria

The situation in Syria is noted for attempts taken by the destructive forces that want to prevent a settlement in Syria, to derail recent positive initiatives. These actions are spearheaded primarily at violating the ceasefire and vital agreements on local ceasefires, as well as at delivering a blow to the Astana process and the intra-Syrian consultations that have resumed in Geneva.
On the practical level, these attempts are orchestrated by the terrorists who do not want peace to be restored in Syria. They want confusion to prevail in the country and to spread throughout the Middle East and beyond. It was Jabhat al-Nusra that organised large-scale raids near Damascus and in North Hama in late March, in which it involved other armed groups that are still considered to be moderate opposition.
It is not just the terrorists’ actions that are unsettling (what else can you expect from terrorists?) but the position of some of our international and regional partners. Instead of firmly condemning the terrorist movement, they are trying to whitewash al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups. They appear willing to support any justification and fake news planted by the adherents of terrorism in order to bring charges against the Syrian government without bothering to check the facts.
There have been many instances when Western politicians and media outlets have expressed solidarity with ISIS and al-Nusra. We cannot understand the reason for this sympathy and the surprising amount of trust London, Paris and Brussels feel for these thugs, criminals and media opportunists, who provide alleged evidence which the West uses to present its case. It appears that the West would support anyone who is willing to throw stones at the legitimate Syrian government and spread any rumour. In addition to moral support, we also see material backing that is motivating and stimulating these actions.
On April 4, Syrian Air Force planes taking part in the operation to clear up the consequences of the recent terrorist offensive in the Hama Province delivered airstrikes at the extremists’ positions on the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun. They bombed the accumulation of military hardware and a munitions warehouse. The facility they bombed included shops where chemical munitions were produced.
The internet and politically influenced media have published reports alleging that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people. It is remarkable that initially they claimed that the chemical bombs were dropped from Russian aircraft. After that, they provided the number of casualties of the chemical attack and videos of dying and dead children, women and old people.
Responding to the media activity over the events at Khan Sheikhoun, the Russian Defence Ministry stated that the terrorists had previously used chemical bombs from that warehouse to bomb Aleppo and also delivered them to Iraq. Russian military experts reported the use of chemical weapons in Aleppo in the autumn of 2016. I want you to take note of these facts, because we not only reported the attacks but also placed them on record and forwarded the reports, together with soil samples, to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Regrettably, nothing has been done to investigate those attacks. Using exclusively fake news and fabricated reports planted in the media, the United States, France and Britain have planted – this is the right word for their action – yet another openly anti-Syrian draft resolution at the UN Security Council. This document will add fuel to the already complicated military-political situation in Syria and the rest of the region.
In addition, I would like to say that this action, this performance is clearly designed to stimulate political destabilisation in Syria. Apart from the military and political implications, this move is also designed, as we see it, to complicate and even stall the nascent intra-Syrian talks.
Russia will continue to work towards an early settlement of the serious military-political conflict in Syria. We urge all the parties concerned to assess the events objectively and in a responsible manner and not just talk but take action to promote political negotiations on a settlement in Syria and its liberation from the evil of terrorism.

UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria

I would like to dwell separately on the issue I have mentioned and outline the Russian approaches to the UN Security Council’s draft resolution planted by the UK, France, and the United States.
Let me note that the text they have submitted is absolutely unacceptable. Its flaw (and the case in point is a fundamental flaw) is that it pre-empts the investigation results and hastily allocates blame, pointing a finger at Damascus. I will explain why we do not see any particular need for adopting a resolution at this stage.
The earlier decisions are quite sufficient for a thorough investigation into this incident. But if certain members of the UN Security Council regard a new resolution as desirable, necessary and timely, this resolution should look totally different. We have a concrete suggestion on this score.
It should have been pointed out in any event that the Security Council is deeply concerned about the news of numerous deaths caused by chemical poisoning at Khan Sheikhoun and that this dictates the need for a full-scale investigation to clarify what has happened in reality and who is to blame. Any use of chemical weapons by whatever party should have been denounced as well. It would be important to urge the OPCW Fact Finding Mission to fully investigate the reported incident on location under the mandatory condition that a list of the Mission’s personnel taking part in the investigation should be submitted to the UN Security Council. It should also be of a geographically balanced nature. What I mean is that representatives of Western countries must not dominate among the people who will be directly involved in clarifying these matters. For the Western nations, the fate of Syria has been reduced exclusively to the issue of regime change. [If they dominate the proceedings], there can be no full-scale, balanced and fitting investigation or analysis.
We have already witnessed examples of such work, when some or other structures tasked with finding out the truth were from the start pre-programmed for political bias. This case is different. It is vitally important to be absolutely impartial and enable oneself and this mechanism to avoid political bias. It would also be necessary to envisage a demand that the illegal armed groups, which control the area where the incident has occurred, should provide investigators with full and safe access to both the location in question and the information they need.
As you understand, the draft has failed to include the things I have just mentioned. It is being actively lobbied under canons and rules other than those accepted by the UN Security Council and with the only aim to put everyone in a situation where it would be either approved or vetoed bypassing any analysis or joint work. Joint work is aimed at achieving concrete results, which is the bedrock of UN Security Council activities.
I would like to say that in recent years, the Russian side, the leaders of the Russian Federation and Foreign Ministry representatives at all levels have repeatedly identified and promoted this issue as one of the UN Security Council’s focal points. They emphasised the urgent imperative to hold an investigation into crimes involving the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the region as a whole. Each time we called on others to avoid politicisation so that we have clarity with regard to the motives, perpetrators and consequences of these crimes. 
At this point, the main task is to conduct an objective analysis of what happened. I would like to say that the falsified reports on this issue are sourced to the notorious White Helmets and the odious London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Neither can be trusted. These sources have seriously undermined their credibility by releasing staged videos and information that was subsequently refuted by all parties. Why then do the people who assume responsibility for adopting decisions that will be binding for all countries, such as UN Security Council resolutions, rely on information coming from untrustworthy agencies? These agencies have long discredited themselves. The information they provide must not be used to take far-reaching decisions that will be binding for all countries.
We have grown used to hearing unsubstantiated allegations against Damascus and its demonisation. These actions have only one goal in sight: to remove the legitimate Syrian government from power at any cost, and, failing that, to at least rally the political support and a propaganda campaign for the proposed decision that would ultimately force Russia to accept or veto it.
Here is an example from my personal experience. When I worked at Russia’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, I communicated with our Western colleagues, including the press secretary and the representative of one of the topmost three Western missions. That was in 2005 and 2006, at the height of the Iraq war, when we had no proof that the reasons and pretexts for the invasion of Iraq as stated by the United States and its allies had been falsified. We took part in debates and went to the editorial boards of various newspapers and magazines, where the press secretaries of the five permanent UNSC members upheld the positions of their countries. Once I said that the US-led coalition was acting in Iraq illegally because it did not have a mandate or a UNSC resolution on an armed operation against Iraq. In reply, one of my colleagues urged me to count the number of UNSC resolutions and decisions denouncing Iraq and the number of proposals they had made for a collective decision to launch a military operation against Iraq. It came as a revelation to me that attempts also count, that they help create an information environment for justifying the subsequent use of armed force in the eyes of the public and the international community. It may be illegal from the legal viewpoint, but the atmosphere for such actions was created deliberately and consistently.
I see the same happening with regard to Syria. It is absolutely clear to everyone involved that illegal decisions based on falsified information will be not accepted. So why are they planting it at the last possible minute? Why is this information not discussed properly? Why has this obviously no-win proposal been made? All of this is being done to create the necessary information and propaganda environment. Nobody knew in the early 2000s that Colin Powell holding up a vial that allegedly contained anthrax was a huge fake. The world came to discover this much later. As I have said, the propaganda campaign included efforts to encourage the UNSC to adopt a resolution condemning Iraq and also a resolution approving the use of armed force against it. This is all I wanted to say to explain what is happening around Syria.
We would also like to draw your attention to the controversial nature of reports about the alleged use of chemical weapons. The White Helmets, which everyone is citing, keep changing their reports. First they say that the bombs were dropped from a helicopter and then change it to a fixed-wing plane. They cannot decide which chemical agent it was – chlorine gas or sarin, and are undecided about the number of casualties. The video and photo materials posted on the social media show that the White Helmets helping the victims are not using proper protective equipment and are otherwise acting unprofessionally. Also, their appearance is much too calm for such an emergency. Taken together, this means that these video materials have been staged.

We have no doubt of the incendiary purposes of this campaign. I would like to remind you once again that it was not a representative of a non-governmental organisation or movement that brought a vial with a white substance and put on a performance at the UN Security Council, but the US Secretary of State. It was much more powerful than the staged video of the White Helmets, because the vial was brought to the UNSC by a senior official of a global power. That performance created a pretext for intervening in Iraq. Later everyone, including Washington, admitted that it was a mistake, that there was no reliable proof, that the proof they had was falsified, and that some high-ranking US officials knew this but did not expose the falsification because it was not in their interests at the time. 

To be continued...

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