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On Syria, UN Gives "Guidelines" of Kim's Chemical Weapons Briefing

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 2 -- The Security Council proceeded on Syria with a briefing about the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) on the use of chemicals as weapons Syria on December 2, after which the UN's acting High Representative for Disarmament Kim “Mr. Jim” Won-soo spoke to the press. Periscope video here, fast transcript below.

 After the briefing and Periscope-only stakeout, the UN issued a strangely titled "Press Guidelines" summary of what Kim told the Security Council. Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access immediately tweeted photographs of the 2-page "guidelines," and now publishes the next here:

"Acting High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Mr. Kim Won-soo briefed the Security Council today in informal consultations on the twenty-sixth monthly report of the OPCW Director-General, submitted to the Secretary General pursuant to resolution 2118 (2013).

Acting High Representative Kim provided Council members with the latest information on the progress made in implementation of resolution 2118 (2013) as well as resolution 2235 (2015) that established the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM). With respect to Syria's twelve declared chemical weapons production facilities, only one hangar has yet to be destroyed, although due to the perilous security situation in that area it remains inaccessible. Progress toward the complete elimination of all declared chemicals by the Syrian Government was also noted. At this time, a total of 99.2 percent of all chemicals declared have been removed or destroyed. Work by the OPCW Technical Secretariat continues with a view to the full destruction of the facilities and chemicals.

Mr. Kim also addressed the latest reports of the OPCW fact-finding mission (FFM) that is looking into allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Three reports of the FFM were recently circulated to the States Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention as well as transmitted to the Security Council members as annexes to the report of the OPCW Director-General (contained in S/2015/908). Mr. Kim echoed the grave concern expressed by the OPCW Executive Council at the findings of the OPCW FFM and its condemnation of the use of chemical weapons by any party under any circumstances. The Secretary-General also shares the abhorrence of the international community regarding any use of chemical weapons.

With regard to the work of the JIM, Mr. Kim noted that, as conveyed to the Secretary-General in a letter from the head of the JIM, Ms. Virginia Gamba, dated 9 November 2015, the JIM Leadership Panel began its full operations as of 13 November 2015. Since his last briefing, significant progress has been made in ensuring that the JIM possesses the correct expertise. The JIM is now well-staffed with the professional experts reequired for carrying out its mission. The JIM staff includes 24 individuals in addition to the Leadership Panel (3 persons) that represent equitable geographic diversity. One staff member will be based in Damascus managed by the Political Office in New York and will be embedded in the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria.

  As of last week, the JIM has full access to the OPCW database of information related to the FFM and has thus begun its substantive work in this regard. Pursuant to resolution 2235 (2013) the first report of the JIM is to be completed within 90 days of its date of launching full operations, which will be in February 2015. Ms. Virginia Gamba is also intending to go to Damascus, but there is no specific timeframe for this visit at this time."

 Inner City Press asked if there'd been any impact of the increased airstrikes on Syria on the JIM's work.

Kim Won-soo replied, "Their work has already started. Because their work is building on the work done by OPCW fact finding missions. So fact finding missions have already submitted their report, and it will be transferred to the JIM. And we will build up fact finding mission’s  work to get additional information."

 But the Guidelines say "one hangar has yet to be destroyed, although due to the perilous security situation in that area it remains inaccessible." That's impact, no?

 Here's more from's fast transcription:

Kim Won-soo: They are now contemplating a visit to Damascus first, now that they are fully operational from November 13.

Q: So they haven’t been to Damascus yet?

Kim Won-soo: Not yet. But they will.

Q: Before Christmas?

Kim Won-soo: Pretty soon.

Q: The team will be from OPCW, Interpol?

Kim Won-soo: They're professional investigators, drawn from all the partner organizations like OPCW, WHO...

Q: How many are there?

Kim Won-soo: The total strength is around 25 but professional investigators about eight.

Inner City Press: Any impact of the increased airstrikes on Syria on their work?

Kim Won-soo: Their work has already started. Because their work is building on the work done by OPCW fact finding missions. So fact finding missions have already submitted their report, and it will be transferred to the JIM. And we will build up fact finding mission’s  work to get additional information.

Q: You said there was going to be somebody from the JIM based in Damascus?

Kim Won-soo:  As a liaison, embedded in the political mission. We have already mission there, so…

Q: Is that a UN mission?

Kim Won-soo: Yeah, UN mission. We have a Special Envoy, somebody from the JIM will be embedded in the UN mission in Damascus.

Q: And on top  of that, the investigators are going soon to Damascus?

Kim Won-soo:  Because they now begin their substantive work. Depending on their work, they will decide where they will visit and how their work will proceed. But now, they are doing analytical work of the findings provided by the fact-finding mission, and also they are now starting consultations with the member states.

Q: When will the [Security] Council get a report?

Kim Won-soo:  Already three reports by OPCW fact finding missions have been circulated.

Q: But I’m talking about the JIM.

Kim Won-soo: JIM will submit the first report, 90 day report, so it’ll be February 13, 2016. Because they became operational November 13. So the first report to the Council will be made February 13, 2016.

Q: And the visit to Syria would be to do what?

Kim Won-soo:  Well, now Status of Mission agreement is the first thing to be concluded. So it is almost being now finalized. So based on that agreement, the modus operandi between the Syrian government and the JIM will have to be sorted out. Cooperation has already started. We don’t foresee any problem in finalizing the SOMA agreement.

  And here, from Kim Won-soo's October 7 appearance, transcribed here by InnerCityPro:

  “On Syria chemical weapons, the Security Council has been briefed by High Representative for Disarmament Kim Won-soo. He has informed that the process of dismantling and destroying the Syrian chemical arsenal, as declared, is almost successfully completed, more than 98 percent.

  “Now the efforts are concentrated in investigating and establishing responsibilities for alleged attacks, using chlorine. These attacks are unacceptable, in the view of international legislation and the Security Council resolutions, inter alia 2118 and 2209. The Council members welcomed the nomination of Ms Virginia Gamba as head of the joint investigative mechanism, and expect that this mechanism will be fully operational soon.

  “Mr. Kim reaffirmed that his office is committed to have the JIM mechanism fully in function hopefully as soon as possible. He assured that he is working in coordination with OPCW to select the most appropriate staff to guarantee a professional and independent mechanism. Mr. Kim requested support of the UN members to ensure the necessary funds to make the JIM fully operational. He insisted on two occasions on this need.”

   Roman Oyarzun Marchesi was asked about the Russian draft resolution - he said he had been in the consultations all day - and Inner City Press asked if in the Central African Republic consultations UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous had given any update on the allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in CAR. No, was the answer. Periscope video here.

Back on August 7 after long negotiations between the US and Russia, the UN Security Council on August 7 adopted a resolution to establish a so-called accountability mechanism for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Outside the Council before and after the unanimous vote on August 7, Russia's ambassador Vitaly Churkin referred to a Presidential Statement he said may be adopted early next week, to support UN envoy Staffan de Mistura's work.

  Inside the Council after the vote, Syria's Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari began his speech with a reference to the 70th anniversary of the US dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He went to to say the UN never investigated the use of chemical weapons, by rebels he said, in Khan al Asal.

   In its resolution the Security Council “recalls that in its resolution 2118, it decided that the Syrian Arab Republic and all parties in Syria shall cooperate fully with the OPCW and the United Nations.” It seems doubtful that ISIS will cooperate.

   Churkin in his post-vote speech inside the Council said that “the existing mechanics of the UN and OPCW do not have a mandate to identify those participating in such acts. Moreover, we became witnesses of the many politicized statements in this regard, which were clearly meant to be propaganda. It was necessary to eliminate this gap, which was done with the adoption of today’s resolution... Any efforts in the Syrian area must be in line with assisting a search for a political solution to the conflict.”

   Inside the Council, US Samantha Power delivered this speech. At the stakeout, questions were given to Reuters, Al Hurra (really, France 24, by mistake), and Voice of America. (We'll have a separate piece on Power's response to the Press' final question about Burundi. For now, here's previous stakeout, sit-down.

   After the meeting ended, on the steps leading out from the UNSC stakeout, Churkin said “I hope it will translate into our continued joint work on the political front. We are working, I think very well, on a PRST [Presidential Statement] in support of Staffan de Mistura’s efforts. I hope it will be adopted...” More on


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