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Western world leaders demand Russia cooperate in nerve agent investigation

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U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May hold a bilateral meeting at the G20 summit on July 8 in Hamburg, Germany. May and Trump, along with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, released a joint statement demanding that Russia cooperate in the investigation into the use of a nerve agent on British soil. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

In a rare move, President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron released a joint statement calling on Russia to cooperate in the investigation into the nerve agent attack on British soil.

In the statement, Trump and Macron agreed with the British government’s assessment that it was “highly likely” that Russia was behind the attack.

Shortly before the statement was released, the Russian representative to the U.N. compared British investigators to Lestrade, the unimaginative police detective that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created as a foil for Sherlock Holmes.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and France make up three of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The other two members are Russia and China.

On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told the Security Council that the U.S. “believes that Russia is responsible” for the attack, and called for “immediate, concrete measures” to be taken.

Russian defector Col. Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned with a nerve agent on March 4 outside a British shopping center in Salisbury, England. After an investigation, May revealed that the nerve agent was Novichok, which was developed by the Russian government during the 1970s and 1980s.

“This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War,” the statement from the four world leaders read. “It is an assault on U.K. sovereignty and any such use by a State party is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and a breach of international law. It threatens the security of us all.”

Earlier Thursday morning, before the joint statement was released, the Russian permanent representative to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya accused the U.K. of focusing on “something that is on the surface of a crime” and rushing to “banal conclusions” like the “hapless” Inspector Lestrade from the Sherlock Holmes stories.

"The collective Inspector LeStrades today are high level members of the U.K. government who are coming up with egregious, superficial and unsupported accusations which have far reaching consequences," Nebenzya said.

“I do think we could all benefit from having a Sherlock Holmes with us today,” Nebenzya added.

Read the full joint statement by the world leaders below:

We, the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom, abhor the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, UK, on 4 March 2018. A British police officer who was also exposed in the attack remains seriously ill, and the lives of many innocent British citizens have been threatened. We express our sympathies to them all, and our admiration for the UK police and emergency services for their courageous response.

This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War. It is an assault on UK sovereignty and any such use by a State party is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and a breach of international law. It threatens the security of us all.

The United Kingdom briefed thoroughly its allies that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack. We share the UK assessment that there is no plausible alternative explanation, and note that Russia´s failure to address the legitimate request by the UK government further underlines its responsibility. We call on Russia to address all questions related to the attack in Salisbury. Russia should in particular provide full and complete disclosure of the Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Our concerns are also heightened against the background of a pattern of earlier irresponsible Russian behaviour. We call on Russia to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council to uphold international peace and security.

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