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Russia 'unconvinced' by UN investigation on use of chemical weapons in Syria

Russia has dismissed the UN-OPCW report concluding Syria used chlorine gas in separate attacks. Syria could face UN sanctions if it is found to have used chemical weapons.

On Thursday Russia dismissed the findings of a joint UN-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) report concluding the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people.

"We believe that the proof is not there for any punitive action to be taken. It's simply not there," said Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin following a closed-door Security Council meeting. Russia is an ally of the Syrian regime in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

The UN-OPCW report confirmed government helicopters from two Syrian regime-controlled air bases dropped chlorine barrel bombs on the villages of Qmenas, Talmenes and Sarmin in the rebel-held Idlib province. The 253 and 255 squadrons of the 63rd helicopter brigade, which flew from the Hama and Humaymim air bases, as well as the 628 squadron in Humaymim were the perpetrators listed in the report. The Syrian government has been blamed for three attacks involving chemical weapons.

"We stand firmly behind this report and its conclusions," said Virginia Gamba, who led the investigation. The report also found the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) group responsible for using mustard gas as a weapon in August 2015.

Der syrische Präsident Assad gibt Interview zu dänischen TV-Sender
Der syrische Präsident Assad gibt Interview zu dänischen TV-Sender
Der syrische Präsident Assad gibt Interview zu dänischen TV-Sender (Picture-Alliance/Epa/Sana)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may face sanctions after government forces used chlorine gas in three separate attacks

Fallout from the findings

The use of chlorine gas as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013 under pressure from Russia. When it joined, a clause in the agreement allowed the UN to potentially impose sanctions should Syria disregard the convention.

The United States, Great Britain and France want the Security Council to impose sanctions on the Syrian government for breaking the rules laid down in the convention.  "There should be accountability for every single person involved in any use of chemical weapons in Syria," said Matthew Rycroft, British ambassador to the UN.

Francois Delattre, French ambassador to the UN, said those responsible for the "barbaric acts" must be sanctioned.

But Russia has questioned whether the investigation's conclusions link the use of chemical weapons to the Syrian government. Churkin said the report was "not substantiated by sufficient testimonial basis," and "full of contradictions and therefore, unconvincing."

Churkin added "Damascus should carry out a comprehensive national investigation" on the incidents in question.

The Syrian civil war has lasted for more than five years andmore than 300,000 people have been killed.

kbd/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)

 

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