Russia may have tampered with chemical attack site, U.S. envoy says




  • In World/Asia
  • 2018-04-16 10:37:14Z
  • By By Anthony Deutsch
A man is washed following alleged chemical weapons attack, in what is said to be Douma
A man is washed following alleged chemical weapons attack, in what is said to be Douma  

By Anthony Deutsch

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Russia may have tampered with the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria's Douma, the U.S. envoy to the global watchdog said on Monday, urging the body to condemn the continuing use of banned chemical weapons.

The comments came during a closed-door meeting at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, convened after an April 7 attack in the town of Douma, outside the Syrian capital, in which dozens of people were allegedly killed with poison gas.

"It is long overdue that this council condemns the Syrian government for its reign of chemical terror and demands international accountability for those responsible for these heinous acts," U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Ward said in comments obtained by Reuters.

"It is our understanding the Russians may have visited the attack site. It is our concern that they may have tampered with it with the intent of thwarting the efforts of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission to conduct an effective investigation."

The United States, Britain and France fired more than 100 missiles at three alleged chemical weapons facilities on Friday, angering Syria's military backer Moscow, which threatened to retaliate.

President Donald Trump said the strikes had accomplished their aim of undermining efforts by the Syrian government to produce and use chemical weapons again in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

OPCW inspectors were visiting sites in Douma on Monday where they were aiming to collect samples, interview witnesses and document evidence to determine whether banned toxic munitions were used.

It has been more than a week since the attack in which witnesses and Western governments described helicopters dropping sarin and chlorine bombs that killed many children and women hiding from clashes between rebels and government troops.

A diplomatic source told Reuters evidence may have been removed while inspectors negotiated access with Syrian authorities.

Syria and Russia deny chemical weapons were used in the final offensive that captured Douma, a rebel-held territory east of Damascus.

The British envoy to the OPCW said it had recorded 390 allegations of the use of banned chemicals in Syria since 2014, and that a failure by the OPCW to act risked allowing "further barbaric use of chemical weapons".

Syria joined the OPCW, the organization tasked with monitoring adherence to the 1997 convention, in 2013 after a sarin gas attack that killed hundreds of people in Ghouta. The move was part of a joint Russian-U.S. deal that averted military action threatened by then-president Barack Obama.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Sunday that further Western attacks on Syria would bring chaos to world affairs, as Washington prepared to increase pressure on Russia with new economic sanctions.

Members of the 41-seat executive council of the OPCW were due to discuss the alleged use of prohibited toxins in Syria, but were not expected to reach any agreement about a response.

The organization, which needs a two-thirds majority to take decisions, has been undermined by deep political division over the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.

The OPCW inspectors will not assign blame for attacks. A joint United Nations-OPCW mission concluded that troops under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons several times in recent years, including in a sarin attack a year ago in the town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed nearly 100 people.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

COMMENTS

More Related News

Syria
Syria's Idlib buffer zone threatened

A horseshoe-shaped demilitarised zone around Syria's opposition stronghold of Idlib is aimed at averting a massive government assault on the area, but its implementation has been riddled with challenges. The buffer, agreed by regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey last month, was meant to be free of jihadists by October 15 but they continue to occupy the zone, throwing the deal into doubt. After a string of Russian-backed victories this year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad set his sights on Idlib, the largest piece of territory still held by Syria's beleaguered rebels.

EU adopts new chemical weapons sanctions
EU adopts new chemical weapons sanctions

The EU set up a new sanctions mechanism targeting those who use and develop chemical weapons on Monday, as part of a crackdown in the wake of the Skripal attack. The framework gives the European Union the power to impose restrictive measures on anyone identified as being involved in the development or deployment of chemical weapons, regardless of their location or nationality. Fears have been growing among world powers that the century-old taboo on the use of chemical weapons is being eroded, following the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain and repeated uses of gas and banned substances in the Syrian conflict.

Leader of Russia-backed Crimea to visit Syria
Leader of Russia-backed Crimea to visit Syria

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The leader of Crimea, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, is to visit Syria on Monday, the pro-government newspaper al-Watan said. Russia-backed Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov will visit Damascus for two days. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's seven-year long conflict. The leaders of two other Russia-backed breakaway regions, Georgia's South Ossetia and Abkhazia, also visited Damascus this year. Crimea has been under Western sanctions since it was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014. ...

Buffer zone brings fragile calm to Syria
Buffer zone brings fragile calm to Syria's rebel-held Idlib

A month after Russia, Turkey and Iran came together in a last-ditch effort to avert a potentially catastrophic Syrian government offensive in Idlib, they appear to have succeeded in creating a buffer zone around the northern rebel-held province, defusing tensions in a major flashpoint region. The deal has for now averted a government offensive on the last major opposition stronghold in Syria, where tens of thousands of militants, including foreign jihadis, live alongside 3 million civilians and opposition fighters. Days ahead of an Oct. 10 deadline, Turkey-backed rebels and an al-Qaida-linked alliance pulled their heavy weaponry back from the front lines in accordance with the deal...

Tale of two brothers reflects Syrian rebel unity and divisions
Tale of two brothers reflects Syrian rebel unity and divisions
  • World
  • 2018-10-14 11:13:04Z

One is a member of a rebel group that was once backed by the CIA. "The important thing is we fight the same enemy," said Abu Eliyas, 40, a member of the Turkey-backed Failaq al-Sham group. "At home, we exchange military skills and information, and discuss the Syrian scene." Abu

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Asia

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.