Posts Tagged ‘OPCW’

US National Security Adviser McMaster says now is the time to act against Iran

February 17, 2018

 

Herbert Raymond McMaster, National security adviser to the US President, delivers his speech on day two of the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Feb. 17, 2018. (AFP)
MUNICH: Iran is building and arming an increasingly powerful network of proxies in countries like Syria, Yemen and Iraq that can turn against the governments of those states, U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said on Saturday.
.
“What’s particularly concerning is that this network of proxies is becoming more and more capable, as Iran seeds more and more …destructive weapons into these networks,” McMaster told the annual Munich Security Conference.
“So the time is now, we think, to act against Iran,” he said.
.
With regards to Syria, McMaster told the Conference that, despite denials, public reports showed that Syrian President Bashar Assad was using chemical weapons, and added that it was time for the international community to hold the Syrian government accountable.
.
“Public accounts and photos clearly show that Assad’s chemical weapons use is continuing,” McMaster said at the major international security conference taking place in Munich.
.
“It is time for all nations to hold the Syrian regime and its sponsors accountable for their actions and support the efforts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” he said.
McMaster did not specify which public accounts or pictures he was referring to.
.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that “France will strike” if chemical weapons are used against civilians in the Syrian conflict in violation of international treaties, but that he had not yet seen proof this was the case.
.
The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons and said it targets only armed rebels and militants.
.
In recent weeks, rescue workers, aid groups and the United States have accused Syria of repeatedly using chlorine gas as a weapon against civilians in Ghouta and Idlib.
.
Earlier this month, Syrian government forces, who are backed by Russia and Iran, bombarded the areas, two of the last major rebel-held parts of Syria.
.
Diplomatic efforts have made scant progress toward ending a war now approaching its eighth year, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced half the pre-war Syrian population of 23 million from their homes.

 

Advertisements

Public reports ‘clearly show’ Assad’s use of chemical weapons: McMaster

February 17, 2018

Reuters

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster talks at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 17, 2018. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski Reuters

MUNICH (Reuters) – U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said on Saturday that, despite denials, public reports showed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was using chemical weapons, and added that it was time for the international community to hold the Syrian government to account.

“Public accounts and photos clearly show that Assad’s chemical weapons use is continuing,” McMaster said at a major international security conference taking place in Munich.

“It is time for all nations to hold the Syrian regime and its sponsors accountable for their actions and support the efforts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” he said.

McMaster did not specify which public accounts or pictures he was referring to.

Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the Syrian government had repeatedly used chlorine gas, but stressed that the U.S. did not have evidence of sarin gas use.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that “France will strike” if chemical weapons are used against civilians in the Syrian conflict in violation of international treaties, but that he had not yet seen proof this is the case.

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons and said it targets only armed rebels and militants.

In recent weeks, rescue workers, aid groups and the United States have accused Syria of repeatedly using chlorine gas as a weapon against civilians in Ghouta and Idlib.

Earlier this month, Syrian government forces, who are backed by Russia and Iran, bombarded the areas, two of the last major rebel-held parts of Syria.

Diplomatic efforts have made scant progress towards ending a war now approaching its eighth year, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced half the pre-war Syrian population of 23 million from their homes.

NORTH KOREA

McMaster called on the international community to do more on North Korea.

“We must pressure the Kim regime, using all available tools, to ensure that this cruel dictatorship cannot threaten the world with the most destructive weapons on earth,” he said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The United States has appeared to endorse closer post-Olympics engagement between North and South Korea with an eye to eventual U.S.-North Korean talks, but has agreed with Seoul that sanctions must be intensified to push Pyongyang to negotiate an end to its nuclear weapons program.

The prospect of negotiations comes after months of tension over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, in which U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader traded insults and threats, while the U.N. tightened sanctions.

“Nations that evade full enforcement and fail to take these steps are acting irresponsibly, now is the time to do more,” McMaster said, calling on countries to cut off military and commercial ties with Pyongyang.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Andrea Shalal and Andrew Bolton)

France’s Macron threatens Syria strikes if chemical weapon use proven

February 14, 2018

BBC News

French President Emmanuel MacronImage copyrightAFP
Image captionMr Macron reiterated his stance that chemical weapons use in Syria is a “red line”

French President Emmanuel Macron has threatened to “strike” Syria if proof emerges that its government is using chemical weapons against civilians.

“We will strike the place where these launches are made or where they are organised,” he told reporters.

But Mr Macron said French intelligence had so far found no evidence that banned chemical weapons had been used.

His comments follow numerous reports of suspected chlorine attacks in Syria since early January.

Nine people were treated for breathing difficulties after a bomb believed to be filled with the chemical was dropped on a rebel-held town earlier this month.

The Syrian opposition said a government helicopter dropped the bomb on Saraqeb, in the north-western province of Idlib.

The Syrian government strongly denies using chemical weapons and says it does not target civilians.

Syrians reportedly suffering from breathing difficulties following a Syrian government air strikes on the town of Saraqeb rest at a field hospital (4 February 2018)Image copyrightAFP
Image captionPeople brought to hospitals in Saraqeb earlier this month suffered breathing problems, a doctor said

Speaking in Paris on Tuesday, Mr Macron reaffirmed his stance that the use of chemical weapons represented a “red line” for his government.

“Today, our agencies, our armed forces, have not established that chemical weapons, as set out in treaties, have been used against the civilian population,” he said.

“As soon as such proof is established, I will do what I said. The priority is the fight against the terrorists.”

Last year, Mr Macron told Russian President Vladimir Putin

that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “red line” that would draw an “immediate response” from France.

In a telephone call with Mr Putin on Friday, Mr Macron expressed concern over “indications suggesting the possible use of chlorine” against civilians in recent weeks, his office said.

Abo Rabeea says he is still suffering from the chemical weapons strike in Khan Sheikhoun (May 2017)

Following a deadly chemical weapons attack near Damascus in 2013, the United States and Russia agreed a plan with Syria to remove and destroy its chemical weapons stockpile within a year.

But the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has continued to document the use of toxic chemicals in the country.

In April 2017, an attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun left hundreds of people suffering from symptoms consistent with use of a nerve agent.

Witnesses said they saw warplanes attack the town and shocking footage showed victims – many of them children – convulsing and foaming at the mouth. More than 80 people were killed.

In response the US carried out a missile strike against a Syrian air base.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his ally Russia have repeatedly said the incident was fabricated

They say an air strike hit a rebel depot full of chemical munitions.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43053617

Tests link Assad regime stockpile to largest sarin attack — Syrian regime forces were behind the atrocity — Equivalent of DNA evidence

January 30, 2018

A Syrian boy holds an oxygen mask over the face of an infant at a make-shift hospital following a reported gas attack on the rebel-held besieged town of Douma in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on Jan. 22, 2018. (AFP)
THE HAGUE: The Syrian government’s chemical weapons stockpile has been linked for the first time by laboratory tests to the largest sarin nerve agent attack of the civil war, diplomats and scientists told Reuters, supporting Western claims that Syrian regime forces were behind the atrocity.
.
Laboratories working for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) compared samples taken by a UN mission in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta after the Aug. 21, 2013, attack, when hundreds of civilians died of sarin gas poisoning, to chemicals handed over by Damascus for destruction in 2014.
.
The tests found “markers” in samples taken at Ghouta and at the sites of two other nerve agent attacks, in the towns of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib governorate on April 4, 2017, and Khan Al-Assal, Aleppo, in March 2013, two people involved in the process said.
.
“We compared Khan Sheikhoun, Khan Al-Assal, Ghouta,” said one source who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the findings. “There were signatures in all three of them that matched.”
.
The same test results were the basis for a report by the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism in October, which said the Syrian regime was responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun attack, which killed dozens.
.
The findings on Ghouta, whose details were confirmed to Reuters by two separate diplomatic sources, were not released in the October report to the UN Security Council because they were not part of the team’s mandate.
.
They will nonetheless bolster claims by the US, Britain and other Western powers that Assad’s regime still possesses and uses banned munitions in violation of several Security Council resolutions and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
.
The OPCW declined to comment. Syria has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons in the conflict now in its seventh year and has blamed the chemical attacks in the opposition-held territory of Ghouta on the insurgents themselves.
.
Russia has also denied that Syrian regime forces have carried out chemical attacks and has questioned the reliability of the OCPW inquiries. Officials in Moscow have said the Syrian opposition staged the attacks to discredit the regime and whip up international condemnation.
.
Under a US-Russian deal after the Ghouta attack in 2013, Damascus joined the OPCW and agreed to permanently eliminate its chemical weapons program, including destroying a 1,300-ton stockpile of industrial precursors that has now been linked to the Ghouta attack.
.
But inspectors have found proof of an ongoing chemical weapons program in Syria, including the systematic use of chlorine barrel bombs and sarin, which they say was ordered at the highest levels of government.
.
The sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April last year prompted US President Donald Trump to order a missile strike against the Shayrat air base, from which the Syrian operation is said to have been launched.
.
Diplomatic and scientific sources said efforts by Syria and Russia to discredit the UN-OPCW tests establishing a connection to Ghouta have so far come up with nothing.
.
Russia’s blocking of resolutions at the Security Council seeking accountability for war crimes in Syria gained new relevance when Russia stationed its aircraft at Shayrat in 2015.
.
Washington fired missiles at Shayrat in April 2017, saying the Syrian air force used it to stage the Khan Sheikhoun sarin attack on April 4 a few days earlier, killing more than 80 people.
.
No Russian military assets are believed to have been hit, but Moscow warned at the time it could have serious consequences.
.
In June, the Pentagon said it had seen what appeared to be preparations for another chemical attack at the same airfield, prompting Russia to say it would respond proportionately if Washington took pre-emptive measures against Syrian forces there.
.
The chemical tests were carried out at the request of the UN-OPCW inquiry, which was searching for potential links between the stockpile and samples from Khan Sheikhoun. The analysis results raised the possibility that they would provide a link to other sarin attacks, the source said.
.
Two compounds in the Ghouta sample matched those also found in Khan Sheikhoun, one formed from sarin and the stabilizer hexamine and another specific fluorophosphate that appears during sarin production, the tests showed.
.
“Like in all science, it should be repeated a couple of times, but it was serious matching and serious laboratory work,” the source said.
.
Independent experts, however, said the findings are the strongest scientific evidence to date that the Syrian government was behind Ghouta, the deadliest chemical weapons attack since the Halabja massacres of 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war.
.
“A match of samples from the 2013 Ghouta attacks to tests of chemicals in the Syrian stockpile is the equivalent of DNA evidence: Definitive proof,” said Amy Smithson, a US non-proliferation expert.
.
The hexamine finding “is a particularly significant match,” Smithson said, because it is a chemical identified as a unique hallmark of the Syrian military’s process to make sarin.
.
“This match adds to the mountain of physical evidence that points conclusively, without a shadow of doubt, to the Syrian government,” she said.
.
Smithson and other sources familiar with the matter said it would have been virtually impossible for the opposition to carry out a coordinated, large-scale strike with poisonous munitions, even if they had been able to steal the chemicals from the government’s stockpile.
.
The UN-OPCW inquiry, which was disbanded in November after being blocked by Russia at the UN Security Council, also found that Daesh had used the less toxic blistering agent sulfur mustard gas on a small scale in Syria.

UN chief calls for Syria referral to International Court — “Grave crimes in Syria” — Use of Chemical Weapons

January 27, 2018

 

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. (AFP)
UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is again calling on the U.N. Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court, pointing to “serious violations” including blocking aid deliveries and medical care to millions.
.
The U.N. chief also called on all combatants, U.N. member states and civil society to cooperate with an independent panel established by the General Assembly in December 2016 to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria.
.
Guterres said in a report to the council circulated Friday on the humanitarian situation in Syria in December that “accountability for serious violations is a requirement under international law and central to achieving sustainable peace.”
.
During December, he said, no aid was delivered to over 417,000 people in nine “besieged” locations, and only 60,000 of the nearly 2.5 million Syrians living in “hard-to-reach” areas received humanitarian help. He said 95 percent of the besieged population is besieged by Syrian government forces.
.
Guterres said “access for the United Nations and its partners to those people living in besieged and hard-to-reach locations remained a critical concern.”
.
He said deliveries of food and other aid remained “extremely challenging” in many areas last month “as a result of active conflict, shifting conflict lines, administrative impediments and deliberate restrictions imposed on the movement of people and goods by the parties to the conflict.”
.
The secretary-general singled out the deteriorating humanitarian situation for the estimated 393,000 people living in eastern Ghouta, an opposition-held pocket besieged by Syrian forces. Prices for basic goods there are some 30 times higher than in neighboring Damascus city, “far beyond the purchasing power of most residents,” he said.
.
Guterres noted that between Dec. 26-28, 29 urgent medical cases were evacuated from eastern Ghouta. But he said “an additional 600 people remain in need of urgent medical evacuation” and “18 have already died while waiting to be evacuated.”
.
The U.N. chief called on all countries with influence over the Syrian government and opposition fighters “to do their utmost” to facilitate medical evacuations and humanitarian aid into eastern Ghouta.
.
Syrian authorities also continued rejecting or removing “life-saving and life-sustaining medical items” from convoys last month, he said. In addition, 16 health care facilities and personnel were attacked in December.
.
While Guterres again urged that Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court, the search for justice has proven to be exceedingly difficult, especially at the United Nations.
.
A Security Council resolution backed by more than 60 countries to refer the Syrian conflict to the ICC was vetoed by both Russia and China in May 2014.
.
A new attempt at the council to refer Syria to the ICC would almost certainly face a similar fate.
.
But following the double veto, several countries, including Sweden, Germany, France and Finland, said they were investigating or prosecuting alleged perpetrators of grave crimes in Syria.
.
In November, Russia also vetoed renewal of the expert body from the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that was determining responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
.
The Joint Investigative Mechanism or JIM had blamed Russia’s close ally, President Bashar Assad, for using chlorine gas in two attacks and the nerve agent sarin in one — accusations that Moscow strongly criticized. By contrast, Russia supported the JIM’s findings that the Islamic State extremist group used mustard gas twice.
.
On Tuesday, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called a Security Council meeting and circulated a draft resolution that would replace the JIM.
.
The council session coincided with a meeting in Paris where the U.S., France and 22 other countries launched a new organization aimed at identifying and punishing anyone who uses chemical weapons.
.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the Security Council meeting a distraction, saying the U.S. is ready to re-establish the JIM “with its original independent and impartial mandate, right now. But anything less is unacceptable.”

 

.
Related:
.
.

 

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, suit

Above: Iranian foreign minister Zarif shares some fun with his co-equal from Russia Mr. Lavrov.

.
.
.
.
.
.
Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Sochi, Russia, on November 22, 2017

Syria says claims it uses chemical weapons ‘lies’ — If the Chemical weapons charge is true, can Assad be removed?

January 24, 2018

Reuters

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Syrian government said on Wednesday that claims by the French and U.S. foreign ministers that it was still using chemical weapons were “lies”.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the Syrian government may still be using chemical weapons, following a suspected chlorine attack in the rebel enclave of eastern Ghouta on Monday.

Reporting by Tom Perry and Lisa Barrington; Editing by Catherine Evans

Related:

 

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, suit

Above: Iranian foreign minister Zarif shares some fun with his co-equal from Russia Mr. Lavrov.

.
.
.
.
.
.
Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Sochi, Russia, on November 22, 2017

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).
.
Related:
.
  (Contains links to several related articles on chemical weapons)

Russia ‘bears responsibility’ for Syria chemical attacks: Tillerson

January 23, 2018

AFP

© POOL/AFP/File | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a joint press conference with Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in central London on January 22, 2018

PARIS (AFP) – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday said Russia bore responsibility for recent chemical attacks by the Syrian government, which Moscow backs in the country’s civil war.”Only yesterday more than 20 civilians, most of them children, were victims of an apparent chlorine gas attack,” Tillerson said of the reported attack in Eastern Ghouta that left its victims struggling to breathe.

“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,” he told reporters in Paris.

“There is simply no denying that Russia, by shielding its Syrian ally, has breached its commitments to the US as a framework guarantor.”

“At a bare minimum, Russia must stop vetoing, or at the very least abstain, from future Security Council votes on this issue,” he added.

His comments came as diplomats from 29 countries met in Paris to push for sanctions and criminal charges against the perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria.

Russia and China have blocked Western-backed efforts at the UN to impose sanctions on Damascus over their use.

Tuesday’s meeting was intended to encourage countries to share information in order to compile 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.

Like Tillerson, US under-secretary of state Steve Goldstein lashed out against Moscow on Monday, saying: “Russia had failed to rid Syria of chemical weapons, and they’ve been blocking chemical weapons organisations.”

“Enough is enough,” he added.

Damascus has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons, with the United Nations among those blaming government forces 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 Islamic State group also accused of using mustard gas in Syria and Iraq.

Related:

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, suit

Above: Iranian foreign minister Zarif shares some fun with his co-equal from Russia Mr. Lavrov.

.
.
.
.
.
.
Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Sochi, Russia, on November 22, 2017

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

November 28, 2017

AFP

.

© 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

© 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.