Chemical weapons watchdog's council condemns Syrian attacks

AP , Thursday 9 Jul 2020

The governing body of the world's chemical weapons watchdog on Thursday condemned the use of chemical weapons by Syria and called on the government of President Bashar Assad to declare all of its chemical arsenal.

The statement, approved by a majority of the member nations on the executive council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, came three months after investigators blamed the Syrian air force for a series of March 2017 attacks with sarin and chlorine in Syria.

"The council expressed its deepest sympathies for the victims of chemical weapons use and condemned the use of chemical weapons as reported by the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team,'' the organization based in The Hague said.

The Syrian government has consistently rejected allegations that it launched chemical weapons attacks during the country's civil war.

The decision adopted by the council requested that Syria to reveal to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons within 90 days where the weapons used in the 2017 attacks were "developed, produced, stockpiled, and operationally stored for delivery.''

It also asked Syria to declare "all of the chemical weapons it currently possesses,'' to identify chemical weapon production facilities and to resolve "all of the outstanding issues regarding its initial declaration of its chemical weapons stockpile and program.''

Syria joined the OPCW in 2013 after it was blamed for a deadly poison gas attack in a Damascus suburb. Assad's government then declared some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons and precursor chemicals that were subsequently destroyed. But questions have remained ever since about whether the Syrian government disposed of its entire stockpile.

In April, the coordinator of the global watchdog's investigative team, Santiago Onate-Laborde, said in a statement that the team concluded "there are reasonable grounds to believe that the perpetrators of the use of sarin as a chemical weapon in Latamneh on 24 and 30 March 2017, and the use of chlorine as a chemical weapon on 25 March 2017 were individuals belonging to the Syrian Arab Air Force.''

The executive council's decision expressed "deep concern" that the team's conclusion "by direct implication, establishes that the Syrian Arab Republic failed to declare and destroy all of its chemical weapons and chemical weapons production facilities, and demands that the Syrian Arab Republic immediately cease all use of chemical weapons.''

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