UN lawyer throws back Russian dispute over investigations into Iran drones


UNITED NATIONS, Oct 26 (Reuters) – The senior UN attorney on Wednesday dismissed a Russian argument that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres can’t report to the Security Council on Western allegations that Moscow was using Iran-made drones in violation of a 2015 deal deployed in Ukraine resolution.

Russia has argued that Guterres has no mandate to send UN experts to Ukraine to inspect the downed drones. Tehran denies supplying the drones to Moscow, and Russia has denied its forces used Iranian drones to attack Ukraine.

Guterres reports to the Council twice a year – traditionally in June and December – on the implementation of a 2015 Council resolution anchoring the nuclear deal with Iran. Any assessment of the drones in Ukraine would be included in this report.

In preparing these reports, UN experts have traveled extensively to review evidence. Back in 2017, they traveled to inspect weapons confiscated by France and the debris of ballistic missiles fired at Saudi Arabia.

“Without further direction from the Security Council, the Secretary-General will continue to prepare these reports as they have been prepared to date,” UN legal affairs chief Miguel de Serpa Soares told the Security Council.

Western councilors could block any attempt by Russia to propose new guidelines for Guterres.

Russia had urged de Serpa Soares to brief the council on Wednesday, but the move appeared to backfire.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States, Britain, France and Germany of violating the UN Charter by attempting to influence Guterres by writing to him to investigate Russia’s use of drones in Ukraine.

“The Secretariat serves only as a point of contact,” the Security Council said. “The Secretary-General’s report can only reflect the fact that the letters have been received.”

Russia said last week it would reassess working with Guterres if he sends experts to inspect the drones. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said UN experts are always ready to review and analyze information from UN states.

According to the 2015 resolution, a conventional arms embargo against Iran was in effect until October 2020.

However, Ukraine and Western powers argue that the resolution still includes restrictions on missiles and related technologies until October 2023 and may include the export and purchase of advanced military systems such as drones.

US Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Robert Wood called Russia’s argument that Guterres could not investigate “stunning” and accused Moscow of wasting Security Council time “to divert attention from its own egregious wrongdoing”.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Adaptation by Richard Pullin

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