2 Nov 2017 13:23

U.S. unwilling to reinforce Biological Weapons Convention - Russian Foreign Ministry

MOSCOW. Nov 2 (Interfax) - The United States does not want to strengthen the biological security regime, and U.S. activities in this sphere worry Russia, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Thursday.

"There are, of course, questions here [for the United States], to put it mildly, and it is not an accident that the president has paid attention to this issue," Ryabkov told reporters in Sochi, commenting on the collection of Russians' biological samples by the U.S.

"We have reasons to express our concerns and rejection of a whole range of aspects of U.S. activities in this sphere. Others have such reasons, too. We don't want to increase tensions and contradictions or conflicts, God forbid. We want to continue proposing instruments intended for resolving problems, namely reinforcing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, which we are actively doing," Ryabkov said.

"However, the U.S. is not demonstrating readiness to strengthen the convention, which, in turn, causes us to doubt the true intentions of the U.S. in this sphere," he said.

"And, of course, when facts such as the ones now being discussed arise, it only gives more reasons to say that something is wrong here. It needs to be studied, analyzed," Ryabkov said.

He said, citing Russian biologists, that "an analysis of the Ebola virus strain in West Africa showed that at least seven genes in the genome chain of this virus had undergone some changes."

"I used the word 'changes,' I didn't use the word 'manipulation' and 'mutation,' because I represent an agency that is responsible for its words. Our agency says only things we are 100% sure of," Ryabkov said.

"Gene mutations can occur for various reasons, but possibly, gene engineering, which manipulates certain nuclein chains to make genes more toxic and virulent, to increase their ability to reproduce, etc.", he said.

"Specialists know all these things. International cooperation using all instruments and, most importantly, political will are needed to study and come to a conclusion about what happened. There is currently no political will in the U.S., but there is rejection of our proposals, and that, naturally, gives me as a Foreign Ministry official more reasons to suspect that there is a problem here and that one needs to deal with it," Ryabkov said.

"We, as a foreign policy agency, will insist that the U.S. adopt a more consistent, more responsible approach to the issue of strengthening regulations in this sphere," he said.

"We will fight for the survival of this convention, we will strengthen it," Ryabkov said.