Posts Tagged ‘OPCW’

Chemical weapons watchdog found sarin used in March Syria attack

October 5, 2017

Reuters

AMSTERDAM/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – An inquiry by the global chemical weapons watchdog found sarin was used in a March attack in Syria on an opposition-held town, just days before the banned nerve agent killed dozens in a separate attack nearby, sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

The March 30 air strike in the northern Syrian town of Latamneh injured around 70 people who suffered nausea, foaming at the mouth and muscle spasms.

“Samples analysis results show clear presence of sarin,” a source told Reuters of the findings by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The report by the OPCW Syria Fact Finding Mission is due to be finalised within weeks.

The Fact Finding Mission reported in June that sarin was used in an April 4 attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed dozens of people and prompted the United States to launch missiles on a Syrian air base.

 Image result for Khan Sheikhoun, sarin, photos
More than 80 people, including at least 30 children and 20 women, were killed in the chemical attack on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun

Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons during the country’s more than six-year civil war.

The OPCW Fact Finding Mission is only responsible for determining if chemical weapons were used in attacks in Syria. A joint United Nations and OPCW investigation, established by the U.N. Security Council in 2015, determines who is to blame.

This team – known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) – has already found Syrian government forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015 and that Islamic State militants used mustard gas.

It is due to report to the Security Council this month on who is to blame for the April 4 Khan Sheikhoun attack.

The 15-member Security Council is due to renew the mandate for the JIM by mid-November. However, Russia has publicly questioned the work of the inquiry and some diplomats said it was uncertain if Moscow would support extending the mandate.

“The Russians don’t like what the JIM has come up with so far, so they are muttering about not allowing a rollover,” said a council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia declined to comment on the future of the inquiry on Wednesday.

“Renewing the U.N. Joint Investigative Mechanism now should be the Security Council’s top priority,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We owe it to the innocent people – including children – who have suffered and died at the hands of the Syrian regime to continue to push for full accountability for these horrific crimes,” she said.

U.N. war crimes investigators said in a report last month that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons more than two dozen times, including in a sarin attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in April that killed more than 80 people.

Reporting by Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by John Stonestreet and Lisa Shumaker

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Syrian Government Has Used Chemical Weapons “More than two dozen times” — U.N. war crimes investigators said

September 6, 2017
French judge Catherine Marchi-Uhel (left) is head of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria crimes.
  
Syrian forces have used chemical weapons more than two dozen times during the country’s civil war, including in the deadly attack that led to U.S. air strikes on government planes, U.N. war crimes investigators said on Wednesday.

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – Syrian forces have used chemical weapons more than two dozen times during the country’s civil war, including in the deadly attack that led to U.S. air strikes on government planes, U.N. war crimes investigators said on Wednesday.

In the most conclusive findings to date from investigations into chemical weapons attacks during the conflict, the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria said a government warplane dropped sarin on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province in April, killing more than 80 civilians.

“Government forces continued the pattern of using chemical weapons against civilians in opposition-held areas. In the gravest incident, the Syrian air force used sarin in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib, killing dozens, the majority of whom were women and children,” the report said, declaring it a war crime.

The attack was previously identified as containing sarin, an odorless nerve agent. But that conclusion, reached by a fact-finding mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), did not say who carried it out.

In all, U.N. investigators said they had documented 33 chemical weapons attacks to date.

Twenty seven were by forces of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, including seven between March 1 to July 7. Perpetrators had not been identified yet in six early attacks, they said.

The Assad government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons. It said that its strikes in Khan Sheikhoun hit a weapons depot belonging to rebel forces, a claim dismissed by the U.N. investigators.

North Korea’s chemical weapons link to Syria — “In many ways the threat from chemical weapons is much more realistic than from nuclear weapons.”

August 25, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | A rebel tries on a gas mask seized from a Syrian army factory in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Text by Sam BALL , at the United Nations in New York

Latest update : 2017-08-25

This week’s revelation of two North Korean shipments suspected to be chemical weapons and intercepted on their way to Syria may be just the latest sign of Pyongyang’s hand in the Syrian regime’s chemical arsenal.

According to a confidential United Nations report, first revealed by Reuters on Tuesday, the two shipments were intercepted at an unspecified time during the past six months. The report, presented to the UN Security Council by the UN’s ‘Panel of Experts‘ on North Korea, did not detail when or where the interdictions occurred or what the shipments contained.

However, it did reveal that the shipments were destined for a Syrian government entity known as the Scientific Studies and Research Centre, which has overseen the country’s chemical weapons programme since the 1970s.

Neither the North Korean nor the Syrian permanent missions to the United Nations responded to FRANCE 24’s request for comment on the report’s allegations.

Pyongyang’s chemical stockpile

North Korea has long been known to have a sizeable stockpile of chemical weapons, but recent developments suggest that its arsenal is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and deadly.

“North Korea is believed to have chemical weapons stockpiles of around 5,000 tonnes,” says Paul Walker, a former professional staff member of the Armed Services Committee in the US House of Representatives and now director of the environmental security and sustainability programme at the NGO Green Cross International.

Walker has not only taken part in on-site inspections of chemical weapons stockpiles, but also works closely with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and similar bodies as part of global efforts to eliminate chemical weapons arsenals.

“Five thousand tonnes is small compared to the declared stockpiles of the likes of the US and Russia, but significantly larger than most other countries, including Syria,” Walker told FRANCE 24.

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Much of that is made up of what Walker describes as “World War One-type weapons” such as mustard agent, phosgene and lewisite, known as “blistering agents” for the horrific chemical burns they can cause to the skin.

But it is also suspected to include significant quantities of nerve agents like soman and sarin, the latter of which the Syrian government has been accused of using at numerous points throughout the civil war, most destructively in an attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in 2013 that the US government estimates killed 1,429 people, including at least 426 children.

‘100 times more deadly than sarin’

But the world got a glimpse at the growing sophistication of Pyongyang’s chemical weapons program earlier this year when, on February 13, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was assassinated at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia, in a move widely believed to have been ordered by the North Korean government.

Kim Jong-nam was killed by the nerve agent VX, confirming for the first time that North Korea possesses this extremely lethal chemical in its arsenal – one that could now be making its way to Syria.

“My guess is that those shipments to Syria probably contained VX and precursor chemicals for making VX,” says Walker.

Dead bodies are seen after Iraq’s gas attack on the Iranian city of Sardasht in 1987 during the rule of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

If so, it would mean that a chemical weapon Walker describes as “100 times more deadly than sarin” could be finding its way into one of the most complex and bloody conflicts in living memory, in which close to half a million are estimated to have died and where chemical weapons attacks on combatants and civilians are already known to have taken place.

In fact, it may already be there.

When Syria declared its chemical stockpile to the OPCW in 2013, in the wake of the international outcry that followed the Ghouta attack and facing threats of US military intervention, no nerve agents were included on the list.

However, subsequent inspections found traces of both sarin and VX in samples taken from the Scientific Studies and Research Centre, the same body for which the recently intercepted shipments were earmarked.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if after further inspection, those chemicals are eventually linked back to North Korea,” says Walker.

‘Pattern of military cooperation’

If so, it would be just the latest in a long line of exposed military links between North Korea and Syria.

The incidents outlined in the UN report are not the first time ships containing North Korean arms have been intercepted en route to Syria, in direct contravention of UN sanctions.

“North Korea has also had some involvement in ballistic missiles and Syria is known to have produced ballistic missiles with North Korean technology in the past,” says Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association.

“Then there’s the nuclear collaboration, which led to the Israeli airstrike (at a suspected nuclear reactor site) at Deir ez-Zor in Syria in 2007,” she told FRANCE 24. “Overall there’s a well established and lengthy pattern of military cooperation.”

That this cooperation may have already extended to supplying chemical weapons to Syria would therefore hardly come as a surprise, she says.

Bigger threat than nuclear?

Meanwhile, an international community currently fretting over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions amid increasingly bellicose rhetoric may be overlooking a more imminent threat in the form of an extensive chemical arsenal — one that in theory could be put to use at a moment’s notice.

Unlike most nations with a chemical weapons stockpile, the majority of those possessed by North Korea are thought to be “deployed”, meaning they are loaded into artillery shells and rockets ready to be fired, explains Walker. In North Korea’s case, most of these are amassed at the demilitarized zone along the border with South Korea.

“This makes for a very capable chemical weapons offensive threat that could be used to strike Seoul in half an hour if war breaks out.”

“It’s a source of big frustration that it doesn’t get more attention,” he says. “In many ways the threat from chemical weapons is much more realistic than from nuclear weapons.”

Related:

© Saudi Royal Palace/AFP/File / by Ali Choukeir | A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on July 30, 2017 shows Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) receiving prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Jeddah

EU sanctions 16 more Syrians over chemical attacks

July 17, 2017

AFP

© 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.

France Says Watchdog’s Report on Syria Proves Sarin Gas Used in April — Russia Says Chemical Watchdog’s Report “Biased”

June 30, 2017

PARIS — France said on Friday that a report by the world’s chemical weapons watchdog that nerve agent sarin was used in an April attack in Syria was “unequivocal” and that the organization’s members should act firmly on its findings.

“The conclusions of this report are indisputable,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The OPCW and its members must assume their responsibilities and condemn, in the strongest terms, this intolerable violation of the non-proliferation regime.”

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Bate Felix)

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Image result for Khan Sheikhoun, chemical weapons, photos

Russia Says Chemical Watchdog’s Report on Syria Attack Is Biased: Agencies

MOSCOW — A report by the world’s chemical weapons watchdog that the banned nerve agent sarin was used in an attack in northern Syria in April is based on “doubtful evidence”, Russian news agencies quoted Russia’s Foreign Ministry as saying on Friday.

The report, seen by Reuters on Thursday, was circulated to members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, but was not made public.

The attack on April 4, when dozens of people were killed in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northern Idlib province, was the most deadly in Syria’s civil war in more than three years. It prompted a U.S. missile strike against a Syrian air base which Washington said was used to launch the strike.

“Unfortunately, after a first reading of this document we are forced to note that its conclusions are based on extremely doubtful evidence,” TASS news agency quoted Russia’s Foreign Ministry as saying.

“The contents of the report compiled by a special commission of the OPCW, are largely biased, which makes us think that the activities of this structure serve a political order,” TASS quoted the ministry as saying.

Russia and its allies in the administration of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad deny that his forces deployed chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun.

Moscow has said the attack was carried out by Assad’s opponents, who, Russian officials alleged, made it look as though it was the work of government forces.

(Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov and Christian Lowe)

See also:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4385534/Syrian-father-watched-22-relatives-die-gas-attack.html

Chemical weapons allegedly used 45 times in Syria: OPCW chief says

April 28, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | A child receives treatment following a suspected chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in Syria’s the northwestern Idlib province, on April 4, 2017

THE HAGUE (AFP) – 

Experts from the world’s watchdog tasked with destroying chemical weapons are probing reports that toxic arms have been used 45 times in Syria since late last year, the body’s chief said Friday.

Director general Ahmet Uzumcu said there was “a huge list of allegations” of the use of toxic arms reported to the operations hub of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

In the “second part of 2016, 30 different incidents, and since the beginning of this year, 15 separate incidents, so 45,” he told a reporters, brandishing a list of several pages which he chose to keep confidential.

They include the April 4 sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun that was reported to have killed 88 people, including 31 children.

“All these allegations are recorded by our experts, who follow this every day from our operations centre,” Uzumcu said.

The OPCW is currently trying to ensure it is safe enough to deploy its fact-finding team to the town for further analysis, after Uzumcu said last week that “incontrovertible” test results from OPCW-designated labs on samples taken from victims showed sarin gas or a similar substance had been used.

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has “already stated that they would support this mission, actually they have invited us to go via Damascus,” he said.

“The problem is that this area is controlled by different armed opposition groups, so we need to strike some deals with them to ensure a temporary ceasefire, which we understand the Syrian government is willing to do,” he added.

“If we can put all this together then we will deploy. The team is ready, and we have the volunteers.”

However, it is not yet mandated to also visit the Shayrat air base in the central Syrian province of Homs.

The base was the target of a US strike launched in the wake of the Khan Sheikhun attack, and Russia has called for the allegations that it was stocking chemical weapons to be investigated.

Uzumcu also confirmed that the OPCW, based in The Hague, believed jihadist rebels from the so-called Islamic State group had used “sulphur mustard” near Iraq’s second city of Mosul last week.

The Iraqi military said some security personnel were injured in the April 15 attack as part of the operation to recapture Mosul.

The OPCW has offered to help Iraqi forces investigate, but “they have not yet requested any assistance,” Uzumcu said.

U.S. defense secretary says Syria dispersed warplanes, retains chemical weapons

April 21, 2017

Reuters

By Idrees Ali | TEL AVIV

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday that Syria had dispersed its warplanes in recent days and that it retained chemical weapons, an issue he said would have to be taken up diplomatically.

The United States launched dozens of missiles earlier this month against a Syrian air base in response to a chemical attack that killed 90 people, including 30 children. It says the Syrian government launched the attack from the Shayrat air base.

The Pentagon has said that the strike had damaged or destroyed about 20 percent of the Syrian military’s operational aircraft.

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During a press conference alongside his Israeli counterpart, Mattis was asked whether the Syrian military had moved warplanes to a Russian base in Latakia.

“They have dispersed their aircraft, no doubt. They have dispersed their aircraft in recent days,” Mattis said.

Mattis also reiterated that the United States believed Syria had retained some chemical weapons.

“The bottom line is, I can say authoritatively they have retained some (chemical weapons). It’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically,” Mattis said.

Israel’s military said on Wednesday it believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces still possess several tonnes of chemical weapons.

A senior Israeli military officer told Israeli reporters that “a few tonnes of chemical weapons” remained in the hands of Assad’s forces, a military official told Reuters.

In a 2013 agreement brokered by Russia and the United States, Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons, a global watchdog, said sarin or a similar banned toxin was used in the April 4 strike in Syria’s Idlib province.

Mattis later met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Before the start of their talks, Netanyahu said he was optimistic about relations between the two countries under the new U.S. administration.

The two countries are working to set a more positive tone after eight years of friction under President Donald Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Gareth Jones and Richard Lough)

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov: It Is Clear The West Means To Oust Assad (OPCW has lost trust in Russia over Chemical Weapons)

April 21, 2017

Russia Today (RT)

OPCW’s block of on-site probe shows Western powers now aiming to oust Assad – Lavrov
The attempt by Western countries to derail Russia’s fact-finding initiative in Syria to examine the site of the chemical incident in Idlib province exposes their aim to topple the Syrian government, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

READ MORE: Russia questions Britain’s chemical weapons investigation in Syria

“I believe that it’s a very serious situation, because now it’s obvious that false information about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government is being used to move away from implementing Resolution 2254, which stipulates a political settlement with the participation of all the Syrian parties, and aims to switch to the long-cherished idea of regime change,” Lavrov said, speaking at a press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Astana.

UNSC Resolution 2254 calls for an inclusive government in Syria and a peace process that would involve a new constitution and free and fair elections.

According to the minister, the decision displayed “complete incompetence” on the part of his Western colleagues, who, in fact, are “prohibiting the OPCW from sending their experts to the site of the incident, as well as to the airfield from where aircraft loaded with chemical weapons allegedly flew out.”

“Yesterday [April 20], our proposal that experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] visit the sites of the suspected chemical attack in Syria was blocked by Western delegations without any explanations,” Lavrov said.

© AFP/File | A child receives treatment following a suspected chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in Syria’s the northwestern Idlib province, on April 4, 2017

In the meantime, the UK and France claim their experts have received samples from the site of the incident, Lavrov added.

READ MORE: UN doesn’t send experts to Idlib ‘chemical incident’ site as West & US are blocking it – Assad

“London, Paris, and the OPCW have given no answers to our questions as to where they took these samples, who took them, or when they were delivered,” Lavrov stated.

“I think we are very close to this organization [OPCW] being discredited,” Lavrov added.

On Thursday, the OPCW’s executive council overwhelmingly rejected a proposal from Russia and Iran for a new investigation into the Idlib chemical incident.

The Executive Council has overwhelmingly rejected the Russian and Iranian decision which attempted to undercut the FFM

The proposal had been amended to agree to Western demands that the investigation into the alleged attack be carried out by the existing OPCW fact-finding mission, but was defeated nonetheless.

The draft proposal seen by AFP called on the OPCW “to establish whether chemical weapons were used in Khan Sheikhoun and how they were delivered to the site of the reported incident.”

Both OPCW fact-checking missions tasked with looking into the Idlib incident are being headed by UK citizens, which Lavrov called “a very strange coincidence” that “runs contrary to the principles of an international organization.”

Earlier in April, an incident in the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun reportedly killed as many as 100 people and injured several hundred. The US has squarely laid the blame on Damascus, claiming that it hid chemical weapons stockpiles from the OPCW after pledging to hand them over in 2013.

Moscow, however, said a thorough investigation, including an on-site inspection in rebel-held territory, should be carried out before jumping to any conclusions. Russia has cautioned that the incident may have been a false flag operation meant to provoke a US attack against Syrian government forces.

https://www.rt.com/news/385515-lavrov-opcw-mission-syria-blocked/

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Chemical arms watchdog to vote on Russian-Iranian bid for new Syria probe

April 20, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | A child receives treatment following a suspected chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in Syria’s the northwestern Idlib province, on April 4, 2017

THE HAGUE (AFP) – The governing body of the global chemical arms watchdog will Thursday vote on a controversial Russian-Iranian move to set up a new team to probe a suspected chemical attack in Syria, sources told AFP.

The draft decision, seen by AFP, calls for an investigation “to establish whether chemical weapons were used in Khan Sheikhun and how they were delivered to the site of the reported incident” — even though a probe is already underway.

It also calls for investigators to visit the Shayrat airbase — bombed by the United States after the April 4 attack — to “verify allegations concerning the storage of chemical weapons” there.

The move comes as the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Wednesday “incontrovertible” test results by the OPCW team already probing the incident had shown sarin gas or a similar substance were used in the April 4 attack.

Samples from three people killed in the attack and seven survivors analysed at four OPCW-designated laboratories “indicate exposure to sarin or a sarin-like substance,” said OPCW director general Ahmet Uzumcu.

Western nations have accused the Syrian regime of carrying out the suspected air strike on the rebel-held town in Idlib province which killed at least 87 people, including many children.

But Moscow, the closest ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is leading efforts to sideline the OPCW’s existing fact-finding mission by calling for a new “full-scale and thorough investigation”.

The move has raised hackles at the OPCW executive council meeting this week in The Hague, where nations have lined up to voice support for the existing fact-finding team.

The team “deserves our full confidence,” the Belgian representative to the OPCW told the meeting on Wednesday.

“We don’t see the need to put in place a new structure.”

The draft decision, due to be voted on by the council later Thursday, also calls for member states to “provide national experts for participation in the investigation.”

Such a move would be against the convention against chemical weapons “as it is the role of the OPCW to lead independently any investigation,” one source close to the discussions told AFP.

Russia last week vetoed a UN draft resolution condemning the attack and demanding the Syrian government cooperate with an investigation, blocking Security Council action against its ally for an eighth time.

After Moscow initially said a Syrian air strike had struck a “terrorist warehouse” containing “toxic substances,” Russian President Vladimir Putin last week accused Assad’s opponents of planning to stage chemical attacks to lure Washington deeper into the conflict.

On Friday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticised the OPCW for not sending experts to the attack site, saying it was “unacceptable to analyse events from a distance”.

But Uzumcu vowed Wednesday an OPCW team was ready to head to the town “should the security situation so permit. I am told that this would require a 48-hour ceasefire and safe passage for the team to be arranged”.

Related:

Russia, Syria & Iran demand no further US strikes on Syria – foreign ministers — Retreat into make believe world of “Assad did not use chemical weapons” while lashing out at US, UK

April 14, 2017

Russia Today (RT)

Russia, Syria & Iran demand no further US strikes on Syria – foreign ministers
The US cruise missile attack on Syria was an act of international aggression, Russia, Syria and Iran have stated after a meeting of their foreign ministers in Moscow.

“We have reiterated our position and were united in stating that the attack was an act of aggression, which blatantly violated the principles of international law and the UN Charter,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

“We call on the US and its allies to respect Syria’s sovereignty and refrain from actions similar to what happened on April 7, and which have serious ramification not only for regional, but also global security,” he added.

Read more

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R), U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L), April 12, 2017. © Maxim Shemetov

Lavrov was referring to the Tomahawk missile barrage fired by the US Navy at a Syrian airbase in Homs province. Washington ordered the attack after accusing Damascus of launching a chemical weapons attack at a rebel-held town in Idlib province from that airbase. Russia condemned the move, saying the US hadn’t offered any proof to pin the alleged chemical weapons incident on the Syrian Army.

Meeting with his Iranian and Syrian counterparts, Javad Zarif and Walid Muallem, on Friday, Lavrov pledged to continue Russia’s support of Damascus in fighting terrorism and restoring peace in Syria.

He added that Moscow suspects that the Idlib incident was a provocative act aimed at derailing negotiations between the Syrian government and so-called moderate rebel groups on a political transition in the country. Lavrov said the perpetrators of the deadly release of toxins must be found.

“We insist on a thorough, objective and unbiased investigation of the circumstance of the use of chemical substances in Khan Shaykhun on April 4,” he said, adding that the investigating team must include inspectors chosen from nations from different parts of the world to ensure its objectivity.

US President Donald Trump. © Jonathan Ernst

Muallem pledged full cooperation of Damascus in carrying out such a probe.

The Russian minister added that Moscow doubts the objectivity of the current mechanisms for investigating alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, considering the difference in how the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) handles reports by Damascus and by other parties.

“When accusations come against the Syrian government, the OPCW reacts in a matter of days and voices its concern. But they never go on the sites of incidents located in the regions controlled by the armed opposition, citing security issues,” he said. “We consider such analysis from a distance unacceptable.”

Lavrov also accused the US of reviving the Obama administration goal of toppling the Syrian government instead of seeking a political solution, citing the Tomahawk missile attack.

“Such acts of aggression are obviously meant to derail the peace process, which was endorsed in a unanimously adopted resolution of the UN Security Council and implies that the fate of Syria would be decided only by the Syrian people,” he said. “The action was obviously deviating from this basic concept and find new protects to aim for regime change.”

READ MORE: White House claims on Syria chemical attack ‘obviously false’ – MIT professor (VIDEO)

Lavrov said there is an increasing amount of evidence pointing to the conclusion that the chemical incident in Idlib province was staged to set up the Syrian government.

“Publications by professional experts, including some in the US and Britain, say there are too many inconsistencies and gaps in the version of events presented to justify the [US] aggression,” he said.

Zarif accused “certain countries” of hypocrisy, citing Iran’s history of suffering from chemical weapons attack by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during the 1980s war. Declassified CIA files showed that the US was well aware that Saddam was using CWs against Iranians, but didn’t oppose it and even provided intelligence for such attacks.

https://www.rt.com/news/384715-russia-iran-syria-strikes-demand/