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France claims use of sarin gas in Syria

April 26, 2017

The French foreign ministry has reported sarin gas was used in the air attack on Khan Sheikhoun and that it contained the same formula used in a previous attack. The Syrian regime denies it was responsible.

Syrien Idlib Giftgasangriff
Image: Reuters/A. Abdullah

Following a meeting of the Defense Council on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault issued a statement to say the chemical agent responsible for the death of more than 80 people in the April 4 attack in Khan Sheikhoun in Syria was sarin.

"The sarin used April 4 is the same sarin that was used in an attack that took place in Saraqeb," also in Idlib province.

Ayrault said that chemical analysis of samples taken from the site of the attack in Khan Sheikhoun implied "the use of sarin is without question," and that the "responsibility of President Bashar al-Assad's regime is also without question."

"This method bears the signature of the regime and that is what allows us to establish its responsibility in this attack," the minister said.

French investigators had confirmed with evidence from "safe sources" that the "manufacturing process of the sarin that was sampled is typical of the method developed in Syrian laboratories."

President Assad denied responsibility for the attack on Khan Sheikhoun, claiming the allegations were "fabricated." Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under an agreement brokered by the US and Russia.

US measures

The US treasury earlier this week launched sanctions targeting employees of Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center who had expertise in chemistry and related disciplines or had worked in support of the Syrian state program since 2012. The sanctions target any property individuals may have in the US in their own name or under the control of a US person. In January, 18 senior regime officials and branches of the Syrian military had been similarly sanctioned.

This followed a US Tomahawk missile strike on the airfield from which the US claimed the chemical attack was launched. 

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said "The United States is sending a strong message with this action that we will hold the entire Assad regime accountable for these blatant human rights violations in order to deter the spread of these types of barbaric chemical weapons."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a security conference on Wednesday the missile attack was a pretext for regime change in Syria and that the US response "pushes the prospect for a wide international front on terror even further away."

jm/rt (AP, dpa, AFP)