WATCH: Emily Thornberry denies Russians are stopping inspectors from getting to chemical attack site

Posted On: 
20th April 2018

Emily Thornberry has denied claims that Russia is preventing independent inspectors from investigating the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians.

Emily Thornberry was appearing on Question Time.
Credit: 
BBC

The Shadow Foreign Secretary said United Nations "red tape" was to blame for their inability to carry out a probe into what happened in Douma, Eastern Ghouta.

Up to 75 civilians, including some children, were killed in the incident, which Theresa May has said was "highly likely" to have been ordered by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who has the backing of Moscow.

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It led to bombing raids on chemical weapons facilities in Syria by British, American and French fighter jets last weekend.

Russia and Syria have been accused by western diplomats of preventing representatives of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons from accessing the site to try to establish the facts of what happened.

OPCW director general Ahmet Üzümcü said the two countires had cited “pending security issues” as the reason.

The UK’s OPCW delegation tweeted: “Russia & Syria have not yet allowed access to Douma. Unfettered access essential. Russia & Syria must cooperate.”

But Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the inspectors had been prevented from entering the area because they did not have the correct UN permission.

Appearing on the BBC's Question Time last night, Ms Thornberry appeared to agree with that version of events.

To some jeers from the audience, Ms Thornberry said: "I don't accept what (Treasury Secretary Liz Truss) says about the Russians stopping it. My understanding is that it's a United Nations problem with their red tape and their safety and with getting their stuff through. That is what's I am told."

Labour has made clear its opposition to military action in Syria without UN backing.

However, Russia has consistently used its veto on the UN security council to prevent any such action being approved.