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UN states spar over Syria chemical attack report

#states #spar #Syria #chemical #attack #report

Several UN Security Council members called on Syria to give guarantees regarding chemical weapons after a global watchdog concluded it had conducted a chlorine attack in 2018, accusations rejected by Damascus.

Last month, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) blamed Damascus for the strike on the rebel-held town of Douma, which killed 43 people.

The OPCW report, discussed by the Council Tuesday, said there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that at least one Syrian air force helicopter had dropped two cylinders of the toxic gas on the town.

“We welcome this report as an important and necessary step in establishing the truth about the horrific 2018 attack on Douma,” the United States, Britain, France, Albania, Ecuador, Japan, Malta and Switzerland said in a joint statement.

Damascus denies the use of chemical weapons and insists it has handed over its stockpiles under a 2013 agreement, prompted by a suspected sarin gas attack that killed 1,400 in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

But the Council members said Syria is “still in breach of its obligations” under the Chemical Weapons Convention and “poses an ongoing threat to international peace and security.”

“We will not give up until we have assurance from the OPCW that Syria has taken the actions necessary to exclude completely the possibility of the use of chemical weapons anywhere, at any time, under any circumstances,” said the statement.

British Ambassador Barbara Woodward said she was “gravely concerned” that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime “has been working actively to rebuild its chemical weapons stockpile since at least 2018.”

Syria on Tuesday again rejected the OPCW’s findings, backed by its ally Russia who questioned the organization’s integrity.

Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia said the OPCW had become “a powerless and controllable instrument in the hands of… western states.”

Damascus and Moscow say the April 7, 2018 attack was staged by rescue workers at the behest of the United States, which afterward launched air strikes on Syria along with Britain and France.

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