Q&A: On Syria Chemical Weapons, ICP Asks Kim Won-soo of Airstrikes Impact

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, InnerCityPro.com fast transcript below.

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."

Here's more from InnerCityPro.com'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 operandibetween 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'sprevious 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 InnerCityPro.com.

Leave a Reply