Posts Tagged ‘Khan Sheikhun’

Belgium Companies Likely Sold Deady Chemicals To Syria In Violation of Sanctions

April 19, 2018

Knack magazine reported that the companies said they were not aware that export licenses were required for the sale of chemicals to Syria.

 APRIL 19, 2018 01:37


Jerusalem Post


 ‘Imminent’ responses to Syria chemical weapons attack

 ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Syria would be blessing for Assad, trouble for Israel

Syrian activists inspect bodies of people they say killed by nerve gas in Damascus August 21, 2013

Bodies from Syria chemical weapons attack 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh)

The Belgium city of Antwerp’s criminal court opened cases against three Flemish companies for alleged violations

of EU sanctions barring the sale of illegal chemical to the Syrian regime, according to a Wednesday report from the Belgium news weekly Knack.

Knack magazine reported that the Belgian companies — AAE Chemie, Danmar Logistics, and the shut-down Anex Customs — exported the chemicals to Syria’s regime, including isopropanol, a chemical that can be manufactured for the use of sarin nerve gas.

The regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad used sarin gas in a massive chemical attack on civilians in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in 2013, resulting in the deaths of 1,4000 people. According to Knack and the website Syrian Archive, “Belgian companies exported 96 tonnes of isopropanol, a sarin precursor, to Syria between 2014 and 2016.”

The joint media report said “UN Comtrade statistics show that Belgium was the only EU member state that continued to export (iso)propanol to Syria since EU sanctions were imposed in 2013.”

The report showed that Belgium also sold deadly chemicals to Lebanon. The criminal trial in Antwerp involving the companies is slated for May 15. Belgium customs authorities filed the criminal case against the companies. The French wire service APA reported that the Belgium finance ministry said the criminal case involve”making false customs declaration, as the companies had not listed isopropanol on the shipping documents.” Isopropanol can also be used for paint products.

In April, 2017, the US launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat Air Base site believed to have been used by Assad’s regime for the production of sarin gas in the mass murder of Syrians. According to a UN report, the Syrian regime murdered more than 80 people in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun in April 2017.

Knack reported that the companies said they were not aware that export licenses were required for the sale of chemicals to Syria. The companies said the Belgium custom authorities did not bar any of the chemical exports to Syria.

Syrian Archive and Knack said that “According to the summons cited by court press judge Roland Cassiers, 24 shipments of sanctioned chemicals from Belgium to Syria and Lebanon took place between May 2014 and December 2016, in which 165 tonnes of isopropanol (69 tonnes to Lebanon and the remaining shipments to Syria), 219 tonnes of acetone, 77 tonnes of methanol and 21 tonnes of dichloromethane had been exported without the appropriate licenses.”

European companies from France and Germany have played a role in advancing Assad’s chemical warfare. The Germany company Krempel sold material to Iran’s regime that later turned up in Iranian chemical rockets in Ghouta. The Iranian chemical missiles with the “Made in Germany” material resulted resulted in 21 injuries, including many children in January and February.

France announced in January it sanctioned companies and 25 people for aiding Syria’s chemical weapons program. According to the French announcement, the businesspeople and companies sanctioned are based in Paris, Beirut, China and Damascus.

Germany has allowed Krempel to continue to trade with Iran and refused to disclose to The Jerusalem Post the names of dual-use deals and companies trading with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran is the Syrian regime’s main military and economic sponsor in the seven year war to wipe out opposition and rebel forces in Syria.


‘We hope you come to your senses’: Russia warns US against illegal Syria strike — No signs of a chemical attack have been found in Douma — Plus: The U.N. Is Broken and Needs To Be Fixed

April 11, 2018

Russia Today (RT)

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Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya. © Ruptly

The US’ reaction to the alleged chemical incident in the town of Douma has clearly shown it was the long-sought pretext to attack Syria, which was finally provided by the “White Helmets’ provocateurs,” the Russian UN envoy said.

The alleged chemical incident in Douma was only beneficial for the militants, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said, urging his Western counterparts to explain why Damascus would decide to do so. The purported attack was reported on Saturday, amid the evacuation of militants from the besieged town.

“This provocation was like a breeze of the fresh air needed by militants who received such timely support from the US and other Western countries,” Nebenzia said at the UNSC meeting on Tuesday. He warned the US and its allies against launching a military action in Syria, bypassing the UN.

“If you made a decision to carry out an illegal military endeavor, we hope, hope that you will come to your senses. You will be responsible for it yourselves,” Nebenzia said.

The allegation of a chemical attack, pushed by the pro-militant sources, has been eagerly supported by the US and other Western countries, who squarely pinned the blame for the unverified incident on Damascus. Russian military specialists, in the meantime, visited the site of the purported incident, which was surrendered by the militants, and found no signs of a chemical attack or any victims of it.

Nebenzia has called for supporting the international chemical watchdog’s investigation on the ground in Syria before jumping to any conclusions. However, he believes that those seeking to topple the legitimate government of Syrian President Bashar Assad would not wait for the results of the investigation, claiming they are instead seeking to launch a strike.

“You don’t want to hear that no signs of a chemical attack have been found in Douma. You’ve only sought a pretext and it was eagerly provided by the White Helmets’ provocateurs,” Nebenzia said.

Includes video:




The UN doesn’t work. Here’s a fix

AFTER 70 YEARS, THE United Nations has become a vast, sprawling conglomerate, overwhelmed by unsustainable ambitions, inadequate capacities, and plain reality. Characterized by speeches, meetings, reports, resolutions, and endless ways to spend money, the UN has managed to construct a large carbon footprint. What else it actually accomplishes is a different issue.

None of this is new. In his Oct. 22, 1961, diary entry, Arthur Schlesinger, close adviser to President John Kennedy and good friend of then UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, wrote, “I cannot resist the feeling that the UN world is really an immense and picturesque form of make-believe and that its problems and crises are remote from the serious issues of the day.” Although Schlesinger hoped he was mistaken in the long run, that day is not yet in sight.

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Undoubtedly, many UN specialized agencies do important work in fields as diverse as maritime affairs, civil air transport, and telecommunications. Almost from their creation, however, the UN’s political decision-making entities — the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the various “human-rights” organizations — have largely been failures.

Many Americans, watching decade after decade of cascading failures and scandals like the oil-for-food program, ask why we simply shouldn’t withdraw. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick was once asked this question. After pausing to reflect, she responded, “It’s not worth the trouble.”

Staying in, of course, brings its own share of trouble, thanks to the feckless decisions by one UN governing body after another and the attendant financial consequences for American taxpayers. If UN agencies and councils merely adopted resolutions filled with rhetoric, we would be irritated, but those authorizing treaties, programs, and conferences with budget implications irritate us more tangibly. Given the UN Charter’s “one nation, one vote” principle, we are basically guaranteed to be permanently irritated.

Periodically, Congress has responded to the UN’s sustained inability to control its budget by withholding American funds. Since Washington now pays for 22 percent of most UN activities through “assessed” contributions (26 percent for peacekeeping missions), withholding can be a powerful signal. In the 1980s, for example, Nancy Kassebaum, the Republican senator from Kansas, led a successful legislative effort to withhold one-fifth of US-assessed contributions from any UN agency that did not adequately take heed of the disproportionate American share of UN budget requirements.

Kassebaum’s effort had some effect, but not for long. More sustainably, Washington should announce that, henceforth, all US financial support would be treated as voluntary rather than assessed. Some of the most successful UN agencies, such as the World Food Program, the High Commissioner for Refugees, and UNAIDS, are already funded voluntarily, and very generously, by America. These programs have demonstrated records of good management, and not surprisingly. When international organizations — like businesses or private charities — have to demonstrate competence, efficiency, and effectiveness, they either perform or disappear. This would be an extraordinarily valuable lesson for the entire UN to learn. The United States should also never forget that withdrawal from certain UN agencies is an available option, as Ronald Reagan proved by leaving UNESCO.

Shifting to voluntary contributions means adopting two principles that, at the UN at least, would be profoundly revolutionary. We would pay only for what we want, and we would insist that we get what we pay for — that is, real performance. And, of course, we should vigorously encourage other UN members (especially large contributors like Japan, Germany, Britain, and France) to join us in moving to entirely voluntary contributions.

These revolutionary principles would be like a tsunami unleashed within the UN system. We should seek as much support as possible, engaging in extensive diplomacy, public and private, to counter the inevitable opposition. But howls of outrage from agencies whose budgets will diminish, and from nations that have benefited from America meekly complying with their priorities, should not deter us from really improving this world body.

Opponents will carp that we are violating international law, which is untrue. Yet the consequence, even in the worst-case scenario, is merely losing our vote in the General Assembly. Since that vote is effectively meaningless now, it would be a small inconvenience on the path to true reform. Remember, our Security Council vote — and veto — can never be taken away except by amending the UN Charter, which we would, of course, veto.

The UN’s strongest advocates should not fear criticism of the UN’s performance, pressure for its improvement, or increased accountability. Their propensity to apologize for the UN rather than actually try to fix it, however, helps explain why so many other Americans are ready to take measures far more drastic than that suggested here. Think about it.

John Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. From August 2005 to December 2006, he served as the US permanent representative to the United Nations.

Divided UN falters in response to alleged Syria chemical attack — Plus Russia’s 12 UN vetoes on Syria

April 11, 2018


Russia vetoes resolution to investigate apparent toxic gas assault; Nikki Haley: ‘Russia has trashed the credibility of the council’

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia votes against US resolution to create an investigation of the use of weapons in Syria, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL)

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia votes against US resolution to create an investigation of the use of weapons in Syria, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL)

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — Russia on Tuesday vetoed a US-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution that would have set up an investigation into chemical weapons use in Syria following an alleged toxic gas attack in rebel-held Douma.

It was the 12th time that Russia has used its veto power at the council to block action targeting its Syrian ally.

A rival measure put forward by Moscow failed to garner enough votes for adoption, laying bare the divisions within the council over Syria as the threat of Western military action loomed large.

President Donald Trump has warned that there will be a “big price to pay” for the alleged use of toxic gas in Douma that killed at least 40 people, according to Syrian medics and rescuers.

As the showdown between Russia and the United States got underway, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States of “planting this resolution” as a “pretext” to justify action against Syria.

“We are using the veto in order to protect international rule of law, peace and security, to make sure that you do not drag the Security Council into your adventures,” Nebenzia said.

US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley speaks during a UN Security Council meeting, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Hector RETAMAL)

US Ambassador Nikki Haley shot back, saying “Russia has trashed the credibility of the council.”

“Whenever we propose anything meaningful on Syria, Russia vetoes it. It is a travesty,” she said.

Twelve of the 15 council members backed the US-drafted measure. Bolivia voted against it alongside Russia, while China abstained.

Britain, France and the United States were among the seven countries that voted against the Russian proposal which they argued would not create an independent panel to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use.

Haley dismissed the Russian draft as “all about protecting the Assad regime” because of provisions that would have required the Security Council to endorse its findings.

 Russia warns US over military action

After warning Monday of “grave repercussions” of US military action, the Russian ambassador urged the United States to “come to your senses” and refrain from ordering strikes on Syria.

“If you took the decision to carry out an illegal military adventure — and we do hope that you will come to your senses — well then you will have to bare responsibility for it,” said Nebenzia.

This image released Sunday, April 8, 2018 by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, shows a child receiving oxygen through respirators following an alleged poison gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian rescuers and medics said the attack on Douma killed at least 40 people. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

China backed Russia’s measure along with four other countries, while two others abstained.

A draft resolution requires nine votes to be adopted in the 15-member council and no veto from the five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Russia has presented a third draft resolution that would support an investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, but would not create a mechanism to identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks.

Diplomats said that measure was not expected to pass either.

After both proposals failed to win adoption, Sweden called for a closed-door meeting before the vote on the third measure to discuss the way forward.

Russia and Syria have called for the OPCW to send its experts to the rebel-held town of Douma, where toxic gas was allegedly used in an attack on Saturday that killed dozens.

The OPCW has said the team of experts will deploy to Syria shortly.

The US proposal would have revived the work of a previous panel, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), that shut down in November when Russian vetoed the renewal of its mandate.

That panel had found that the Syrian air force had dropped sarin on the village of Khan Sheikhun in April of last year.



Russia’s 12 UN vetoes on Syria

United Nations: Russia used its veto power for the 12th time Tuesday at the UN Security Council to block action directed at its Syrian ally.

The latest veto prevented the adoption of US-drafted resolution to investigate chemical weapons use in Syria aimed at identifying the perpetrators.

Here’s a look at Russia’s 12 vetoes on Syria:
In all, Russia used it veto four times to block draft resolutions seeking to establish investigations of chemical weapons use in Syria’s seven-year war. A fifth veto was used to prevent a Western bid to impose sanctions over chemical weapons use.

April 10, 2018: Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution after 12 countries backed the measure. China abstained, while Bolivia voted against.

November 16-17/October 24, 2017: In less than a month, Russia used its veto three times to block draft resolutions on renewing a UN-led probe of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) died on November 17 after several attempts by the Security Council to save the panel failed to meet Russian demands.

April 12, 2017: Russia vetoed a draft resolution demanding that President Bashar Assad’s government cooperate with an investigation into the deadly suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun on April 4. China abstained.

February 28, 2017: Russia and China again vetoed a UN resolution, drafted by Britain, France and the United States that would have imposed sanctions on Syria over chemical weapons use in the conflict

December 5, 2016: A resolution that calls for a truce in Aleppo is vetoed by both China and Russia. Egypt, New Zealand and Spain presented the measure. The vote was 11 to 3 with one abstention from Angola. Venezuela voted against, alongside China and Russia.

October 8, 2016: Russia alone vetoes a text proposed by France and Spain to halt the bombing of Aleppo, after presenting a rival draft that urged a cease-fire but made no mention of barring military flights over the city. China abstained in that vote, the first time it did not veto a Syria draft resolution alongside Russia.

May 22, 2014: Beijing and Moscow block a French-drafted proposal for the Security Council to refer Syrian crimes to the International Criminal Court (ICC) is blocked. All 13 other council members backed the measure.

Russia accused Britain, France and the United States of hypocrisy in not wanting war crimes in Iraq referred to the ICC.

July 19, 2012: Beijing and Moscow again veto a Western-backed resolution that threatens Damascus with sanctions if it does not stop using heavy weapons.

February 4, 2012: Russia and China again vetoed a draft resolution that condemns a Syrian government crackdown on the opposition, while the Security Council’s other members voted in favor.

The veto sparked an international outcry, especially because it came a few hours after Syrian forces bomb the protest city of Homs, killing hundreds of people.

October 4, 2011: Six months after the Syrian conflict began, Russia and China blocked a proposed UN resolution condemning grave human rights violations in Syria and threatening measures against President Bashar Assad’s government.

Syria denies having chemical weapons after Macron threat

February 14, 2018

DAMASCUS: The Syrian government on Wednesday denied it possessed chemical weapons and branded the use of such arms “immoral and unacceptable,” following a French warning of punitive strikes.
As Damascus dismissed suspicions of chlorine attacks on rebel-held areas including besieged Eastern Ghouta, the first aid convoy since November entered the battered enclave near the capital.
“Syria’s government categorically denies possessing… chemical weapons,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, quoted by state news agency SANA.
“We consider the use of such arms as immoral and unacceptable, whatever the context.”
On Tuesday, France’s President Emmanuel Macron warned his country would launch strikes if proof emerged that the Syrian regime had used banned chemical weapons against its civilians.
According to Washington, at least six chlorine attacks have been reported since early January in rebel-held areas, resulting in dozens of injuries.
Damascus last month also denied carrying out chemical attacks and its ally Moscow denounced such charges as a “propaganda campaign,” stressing the perpetrators had not been identified.
France, like the United States, suspects the Syrian regime but says it does not yet have concrete evidence on the nature and origin of the attacks.
Damascus has repeatedly been accused of using chemical weapons, despite a 2013 deal between the United States and Russia for Syria to destroy its stockpiles.
The United Nations was among those who blamed government forces for an April 2017 sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun that left scores dead.
In retaliation for that alleged attack, the United States carried out cruise missile strikes on a Syrian regime air base.
As Assad’s opponents ratcheted up pressure, there was some respite with the arrival of the first aid convoy in months in rebel Eastern Ghouta after intensive bombardments last week killed 250 civilians.
“First UN and Syrian Red Crescent inter-agency convoy this year crossed conflict lines to Nashabieh in Eastern Ghouta to deliver food, health and nutrition supplies for 7,200 people in the besieged enclave,” the UN humanitarian affairs office said.
Some 400,000 people live in the enclave outside Damascus where they have been under siege by the army since 2013, facing severe food and medicine shortages.
The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution demanding a 30-day cease-fire in Syria to allow for urgent deliveries of humanitarian aid.
Sweden and Kuwait presented the draft, which would also demands an immediate end to sieges, including on Eastern Ghouta, after regime ally Russia last week rejected as “not realistic” a similar appeal by UN aid officials.
The United Nations has said that violence in Syria has only worsened since it first called for a truce last week, with “some of the worst fighting of the entire conflict” being witnessed.
President Bashar Assad’s forces have bludgeoned their way ahead with the help of Russian air power in the war that has claimed more than 340,000 lives since 2011.
Beyond pounding Eastern Ghouta, the regime is conducting an offensive in the northwestern Idlib province, the only one that had remained completely out of its grip.
Further to the north, Turkey is also carrying out a major operation in the Afrin region against Kurdish miltia that have received backing from the US.

World powers step up pressure on Syria, Russia over chemical attacks

January 23, 2018

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attend a foreign ministers meeting on the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, in Paris, France, January 23, 2018. (Reuters)
PARIS: Two dozen countries agreed Tuesday to push for sanctions against perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria, with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying Russia “ultimately bears responsibility” for such strikes.
Twenty-four nations approved a new “partnership against impunity” for the use of chemical weapons, just a day after reports that they were used in an attack that sickened 21 people in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.
“Whoever conducted the attacks, Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in East Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons since Russia became involved in Syria,” Tillerson said after the meeting, and ahead of further talks with several ministers on ending the conflict.
“There is simply no denying that Russia, by shielding its Syrian ally, has breached its commitments to the US as a framework guarantor” overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, as agreed in September 2013, he added.
Despite its pledge to destroy such weapons, the Syrian regime has been repeatedly accused of staging chemical attacks, with the United Nations among those blaming it for an April 2017 sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun which left scores dead.
There have been at least 130 separate chemical weapons attacks in Syria since 2012, according to French estimates, with the Daesh group also accused of using mustard gas in Syria and Iraq.
Russia twice used its UN veto in November to veto an extension of an international expert inquiry into chemical attacks in Syria, to the consternation of Western powers.
Moscow, backed by Iran and Turkey, has organized talks in the Russian city of Sochi next week aimed at finding a resolution to the brutal and multi-faceted civil war.
Those efforts are running parallel to talks overseen by the UN, with the latest round due in Vienna on Thursday and Friday.
The talks have so far failed to make progress in ending a war that has left more than 340,000 people dead.
Tillerson said that “Russia’s failure to resolve the chemical weapons issue in Syria calls into question its relevance to the resolution of the overall crisis.”
“At a bare minimum, Russia must stop vetoeing, or at the very least abstain, from future Security Council votes on this issue,” he said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, 24 out of 29 countries attending committed to sharing information and compiling a list of individuals implicated in the use of chemical weapons in Syria and beyond.
These could then be hit with sanctions such as asset freezes and entry bans as well as criminal proceedings at the national level.
Ahead of the meeting France announced asset freezes against 25 Syrian companies and executives, as well as French, Lebanese and Chinese businesses accused of aiding regime use of chemical weapons.
“The criminals who take the responsibility for using and developing these barbaric weapons must know that they will not go unpunished,” said French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who chaired Tuesday’s meeting.
Tillerson, Le Drian and several other ministers including Britain’s Boris Johnson were due to meet for further talks laying the groundwork for a new contact group on Syria that French President Emmanuel Macron has been urging for months.
Macron wants the new contact group to bring together the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the US — along with regional countries to find a solution.
Johnson said he was also set to host his US, Saudi Arabian and UAE counterparts at the British Embassy to discuss the Yemen conflict in a whirlwind of Middle Eastern diplomacy.
A meeting later Tuesday in Paris, attended by Tillerson as well as British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, is designed to “find pathways toward and the means for a true political transition with the support of major powers, essentially the P5 and countries in the region directly affected,” an aide to Le Drian said.
“The conflicts in Syria and Yemen have created two of the worst humanitarian crises of our time,” he said.
“There can be no military solution to either conflict, only peaceful and carefully negotiated political solutions will truly end the suffering.”
The Syrian war has grown even more complex in recent days with Turkey launching a new ground operation against Kurdish militia who it considers an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
  (Contains links to several related articles on chemical weapons)

Russia attacks, intimidation campaign ‘biased’ chemical arms watchdog over Syria

November 28, 2017



© AFP/File | The April 4 attack on the rebel-held Syrian village of Khan Sheikhun killed more than 80 people and triggered global outrage
THE HAGUE (AFP) – Russia launched a scathing attack Tuesday on the global chemical weapons watchdog, accusing it of bias in its probe into the Khan Sheikhun gas attack in Syria earlier this year.In a speech to the annual gathering of the members of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Moscow’s representative lashed what he called “unprofessional and politically-biased working methods” by the body’s inspectors.

This “probably came down from an order on high where some of the Western countries wanted their own version of the bombing in Khan Sheikhun with chemical weapons,” said Georgy Kalamanov, Russia’s deputy minister of trade and industry.

The April 4 attack on the opposition-held Syrian village triggered global outrage as images of dying children were shown worldwide. More than 80 people died, and the United States just days later launched missile strikes on a Syrian air base.

A joint OPCW and UN body, known as the joint mechanism or JIM, has found that it was the Syrian air force that dropped sarin gas on Khan Sheikhun.

But that finding has been fiercely contested by Damascus.

Russia has also rejected the investigation as flawed because the experts did not travel to Khan Sheikhun and said inspectors relied on witnesses that it says were linked to the opposition of President Bashar al-Assad.

It has called for the investigation to be put aside and for a new one to be carried out. Moscow has also twice used its power of veto at the UN Security Council to block the renewal of the JIM.

– ‘Double standard’ –

Syria was being hit by “unfounded accusations” of chemical weapons use even though for years it “has been combatting terrorism and extremism that has been sponsored from outside,” said Kalamanov, adding that was a “double standard” which is only “undermining the credibility of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the OPCW.”

The issue of Syria has dominated the annual talks in The Hague of the 192 countries which have ratified the arms treaty, which commits all member states to rid the world of chemical weapons.

Many delegates have bemoaned the lack of condemnation of Syria, which joined the convention in 2013 under Russia and US pressure, at the OPCW.

“Chemical weapons use by the Syrian Arab Republic remains the most serious violation of the CWC in the convention?s 20-year history and the greatest modern challenge to the global norm against chemical weapons use,” said top US official Andrea Hall.

France insists “we cannot accept that a member state to the OPCW has violated our convention by using chemical weapons and does not accept its responsibilities,” said French ambassador Philippe Lalliot.

The JIM, set up two years ago, has also concluded that Syrian regime forces were behind two chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015, while the so-called Islamic State jihadist group used mustard gas in 2015.

The debate at the OPCW headquarters comes as UN-backed talks on ending the six-year civil war in Syria resumed in Geneva.

© 2017 AFP

Syria Can’t Hide From Its Use of Chemical Weapons: World’s chemical weapons watchdog says — Assad regime admits to nothing

November 27, 2017


© AFP/File | The April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhun triggered global outrage as images of suffering children, such as these receiveing treatment, were shown worldwide

THE HAGUE (AFP) – Syria came under pressure Monday to fill in gaps in its declaration to the world’s chemical weapons watchdog amid reports of toxic arms use during its six-year civil war, triggering angry Syrian denials.A fact-finding mission from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has issued three reports showing the use of chemicals weapons in the country in recent years, OPCW chief Ahmet Uzumcu said.

Image result for Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, photos

“It’s very disturbing that yet again we are confronted with the use of chemical weapons,” Uzumcu told the annual conference of countries belonging to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

It was “vital… that the long-held international norm against chemical weapons remains strong and the perpetrators are held accountable,” Uzumcu said.

The 1993 arms treaty binds all member states to help rid the world of chemical weapons.

Syria under President Bashar al-Assad finally joined in 2013, admitting under US-Russian pressure to having a toxic arms stockpile, and thus staving off threatened US air strikes.

Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad hit back at what he said were “false accusations” of the regime’s alleged involvement in attacks, saying the “politicised findings” of the OPCW fact-finding mission aimed to “smear the image of Syria” and destabilise his country.

– ‘No impunity’ –

He insisted that 100 percent of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile had been destroyed by the OPCW.

Countries had “sent their mercenaries from all over the world and encouraged them to use chemical weapons and toxic chemical against civilians and the Syrian army,” he claimed.

He insisted the fact-finding team should carry out a new investigation.

The debate in The Hague came on the eve of fresh talks in Geneva with the United Nations aiming to revitalise flagging efforts to end the six-year conflict in which more than 340,000 people have been killed.

A joint UN-OPCW body, the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), in its latest report blamed the Syrian air force for a sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun in April that left scores dead.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Estonia’s representative for non-proliferation, Jacek Bylica, said EU countries were “appalled by the recurring systematic use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Syrian government and by (the jihadist group) ISIL.”

“There can be no impunity and those responsible for such acts must be held accountable,” he said, calling on Damascus to work with the OPCW to complete an accurate picture of its chemical weapons stockpile.

The OPCW has declared that 100 percent of the Syrian regime’s stocks have been destroyed, but has increasingly voiced concerns that not everything was declared.

Russia blocks Syria gas attacks probe, again

November 18, 2017


© Timothy A. Clary, AFP file picture | The UN Security Council votes to extend investigations into who is responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria on October 24, 2017. Russia voted no


Latest update : 2017-11-18

Russia cast a second veto in as many days at the United Nations Security Council on Friday to block the renewal of a probe to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

A draft resolution put forward by Japan would have extended the UN-led Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) for 30 days to allow time for negotiations on a wider compromise.

But Russia used its veto power to prevent adoption after 12 council members voted in favor of the measure, effectively ending the mission. China abstained, while Bolivia voted no.

It was the 11th time that Russia has used its veto power to stop council action targeting its ally Syria.

“Russia is wasting our time,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council after the vote. “Russia has no interest in finding ground with the rest of this council to save the JIM.”

“Russia will not agree to any mechanism that might shine a spotlight on the use of chemical weapons by its ally, the Syrian regime,” she said.

“It’s as simple and shameful as that.”

A resolution requires nine votes to be adopted at the council, but five countries — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — can block adoption with their veto power.

Japan put its proposal forward after Russia on Thursday vetoed a US-drafted resolution that would have allowed the expert investigators to continue their work for a year.

A separate Russian draft resolution that called for changes to the JIM failed to garner enough support, with just four votes in favor.

“Any extension of the JIM’s mandate for us is possible only provided fundamental flaws in its work are rectified,” said Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.

Fictitious investigation

The Russian ambassador accused the JIM’s leadership of having “disgraced itself with its fictitious investigation” of the sarin gas attack at the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun.

The panel “signed its name on baseless accusations against Syria,” he charged.

In a report last month, the JIM concluded that the Syrian air force had dropped the deadly nerve agent on Khan Sheikhun, leaving scores dead.

The April 4 attack triggered global outrage as images of dying children were shown worldwide, prompting the United States to launch missile strikes on a Syrian air base days later.

After the veto, the council met behind closed doors at Sweden’s request to hear another appeal for a temporary extension, but Russia again refused, diplomats said.

Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog said council members must “make sure that we are absolutely convinced that we have exhausted every avenue, every effort before the mandate of the JIM expires tonight.”

Italian Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, who holds the presidency, told reporters after the meeting that the council “will continue to work in the coming hours and days constructively to find a common position.”

The final efforts turned to finding some technical ruse that would have allowed the JIM to avoid shutting down and would not require a resolution, diplomats said. 

UN officials confirmed late Friday that the panel would end its work at midnight (0500 GMT Saturday) as there was no decision from the council to keep it in place.

The row over the chemical weapons inquiry came as the United Nations was preparing a new round of peace talks to open on November 28 in Geneva to try to end the six-year war.

The joint UN-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) panel was set up by Russia and the United States in 2015 and unanimously endorsed by the council, which renewed its mandate last year.

Previous reports by the JIM have found that Syrian government forces were responsible for chlorine attacks on three villages in 2014 and 2015, and that the Islamic State group used mustard gas in 2015.

Russia In Media Blitz to Save Bashar al-Assad, Discredit Any Reports of Chemical Weapons Use and Other “War Crimes”

November 2, 2017

Russia dismisses UN report on Syria sarin attack

© AFP/File / by Maria PANINA | This Syrian child was among the victims of a suspected sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhun on April 4, which a UN report has blamed on the regime of Bashar al-Assad

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia dismissed Thursday a report by a UN-led panel that blamed the Syrian regime for a sarin attack on the town of Khan Sheikhun and said the use of the substance was part of a “theatrical performance” by rebels.

A panel including diplomats and military officers presented Moscow’s version of events complete with diagrams and satellite imagery, saying the Syrian regime did not carry the blame for the April attack which killed over 80 people.

“We believe that the report turned out to be superficial, unprofessional and amateurish,” said Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the foreign ministry’s security and disarmament department.

“The mission did their research from a distance, that in itself is a scandal.”

He said “the use of sarin has been confirmed” but insisted it was not delivered by an aerial bomb but rather used “as a theatrical performance, a provocation” by the rebels.

At least 87 people died on April 4 this year when sarin nerve agent projectiles were fired into Khan Sheikhun, a town in the Idlib province of northwestern Syria.

Images of dead and dying victims, including young children, in the aftermath of the attack provoked global outrage and a US cruise missile strike on a regime air base.

A joint panel by the United Nations and the world’s chemical watchdog Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded that the Syrian regime was responsible, and that the air force had dropped a bomb on the town, releasing the deadly nerve agent.

Russia and Syria have however presented an alternative theory that an explosive device was set off on the ground. Ulyanov on Thursday suggested the sarin gas was poured inside the crater in the ground left by the bomb.

– ‘Baseless verdict’ –

Ulyanov spoke as part of a panel of foreign ministry, air force and other Russian officials presenting slides that showed elaborate diagrams of regime war planes’ trajectories and satellite images in an effort to cast doubt on the UN report.

The Russian officials also showed video footage of rescue personnel working in the crater wearing “only respirators and cotton gloves.”

Ulyanov claimed the video had been filmed after rebels detonated the bomb on the asphalt and before the sarin gas was poured into the crater.

“If it were an aerial bomb, the bomb’s tail would be in the crater, but there are no traces of an aerial bomb,” he said.

Ulyanov also said witnesses cited in the UN report were not confirmed to have been in the town on April 4 and “could have been sunning themselves on a beach in the United Arab Emirates.”

“The verdict against Damascus that has been issued so confidently turned out to be baseless,” he said. “You cannot issue a verdict against Damascus based on newspaper publications.”

Despite criticising the work of the UN-OPCW on the report, Ulyanov said Russia would on Thursday present a draft resolution extending its mission in Syria, following a veto on a similar US proposal in the Security Council last week.

Russia previously opposed renewing the mandate of the panel, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism, prior to the release of the Khan Sheikhun report.

by Maria PANINA

EU sanctions 16 more Syrians over chemical attacks

July 17, 2017


© AFP/File | US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley holds photos of victims as the UN Security Council meets in an emergency session in April about a suspected deadly chemical attack that killed civilians, including children, in Syria

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Union on Monday imposed sanctions against 16 more high-ranking military Syrian officials and scientists over chemical weapons attacks on civilians, a statement said.

The move by the bloc’s foreign ministers brings to 255 people now facing a travel ban and an assets freeze over President Bashar al-Assad’s violent crackdown on civilians during a five-year civil war.

“The EU added these 16 persons for their role in the development and use of chemical weapons against the civilian population,” an EU statement said.

The EU will release the names of those hit by the sanctions on Tuesday, it said.

The UN’s chemical watchdog, the OPCW, last month concluded that sarin was used as a chemical weapon in the April 4 attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun that killed at least 87 people including children.

The sanctions decision “shows the resolve of the UK and the rest of our friends in Europe in dealing with those who are responsible for chemical weapons attacks,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told reporters just before the decision was announced.

Syria is already subject to an oil embargo, restrictions on certain investments, a freeze of the assets of the Syrian central bank held in the EU, as well as export restrictions.

It also is under sanctoins on equipment and technology that might be used for internal repression as well as on equipment and technology for the monitoring or interception of internet or telephone communications.