Zakharova Slams Hmeimim Base Shelling as Provocation to Derail Syrian Congress

MOSCOW- The missile attack against Russia’s Hmeimim base by terrorists could be a staged provocation aimed at derailing the Syrian National Dialogue Congress to be held in Sochi, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters at a press briefing.

"On December 27, militants fired several missiles from the Bdama inhabited community at Lattakia International Airport and the Russian Aerospace Forces’ deployment site in Hmeimim. Two of them were intercepted by Russia’s Pantsir air defense system, while the third one, deviating from the trajectory, landed in the outskirts of the city of Jebla," she said, according to Itar Tass.

 "We see yesterday’s attempt to attack the Russian military at the Hmeimim base as another link in the chain of ongoing and, perhaps, staged provocations involving terrorists and extremists from the Syrian opposition aimed at disrupting the positive trends in the development of the situation in Syria and, in particular, at creating obstacles to convening and holding the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi on January 29-30," she said.

Zakharova added that Russia would continue preparations for the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which, she stressed, "is aimed at giving the necessary impetus to a political settlement in that country on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and genuine national reconciliation in Syria."

Terrorists getting new weapons

Russia is concerned about terrorists in Syria getting new weapons, with which they shelled the Hmeimim airbase, Maria Zakharova pointed out.

"Moscow perceived with concern this provocation [the shelling of the Hmeimim airbase] by terrorists. The Russian forces are reliably protected by the multi-layered air defense system, which has proven its high efficiency in this case as well," the diplomat said.

"What causes the concern is that terrorists are getting new armaments, which empower them to carry out such attacks. The question is where the terrorists are getting these weapons from," the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.

"In this regard, we zoned in on the fact that a plane of the Syrian Air Force had been shot down from a man-portable air defense missile system over northern Hama several days ago," Zakharova said.

"Therefore, the facts indicate that the support of terrorist units with armaments has not been stopped up to date," the Russian diplomat said.

 UN-OPCW misunderstanding in Syria chemical incident probe

Zakharova also said that Moscow believes that a certain misunderstanding exists between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in probing the alleged  chemical incident in Syria’s Khan Sheikhun.

A group of experts of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission visited Damascus on December 8-16 in the wake of numerous requests of the Syrian government, the Russian diplomat noted.

"Unfortunately, we have to state once again: the visit directly to the scene of the incident did not take place again: experts of the OPCW special mission refused at the last moment to go to that area, referring to the allegedly corresponding recommendations of the UN Department of Safety and Security, even though this territory has long been under the government troops’ control," the spokeswoman said, noting that "the Syrian side gave additional guarantees of safe access and expressed its readiness to provide a helicopter and an armed convoy for the OPCW representatives."

"At UN headquarters, the fact of these sorts of recommendations was not only unconfirmed but even denied. This indicates the existence of at least a certain misunderstanding between the two international structures," the Russian diplomat said.

"We would like to expect that such mismatches and some gaps in the positions and in the OPCW’s interaction with the UN will be eliminated in the near future and the work on probing the incidents of chemical weapons’ use in Syria will be brought into full compliance with the high standards of the Convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons," Zakharova stressed.