Gabriel: Russia backs Syrian chemicals attack probe | News | DW | 10.04.2017
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Gabriel: Russia backs Syrian chemicals attack probe

Russia will support a probe into the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has said. He also warned the US against further military escalation.

Gabriel (above right) said in an interview on Sunday evening that his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov (above left) had told him in a telephone conversation that Moscow would "clear the way to investigate what actually happened there."

Speaking to German public broadcaster ZDF, Gabriel added he hoped it was "a serious offer."

At least 80 civilians died in the air attack on the town in rebel-held Idlib province last week, prompting an international outcry.

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The US accused the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of using chlorine gas mixed with a highly toxic sarin-like nerve agent in an air attack. Gabriel said that information Germany has received suggested state forces were behind the attack and reiterated that "further military escalation" must be prevented.

"You can not pretend to just talk with Russia and the US, this is also about Iran, Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries," he said.

An attempt should be made to "use this moment of fear on all sides to get the various parties to the negotiating table," Gabriel said. Above all, Russia must be dissuaded from "this unbreakable fidelity to Assad."

A diplomatic solution?

Gabriel went on to say that at the G7 meeting of Foreign Ministers on Monday and Tuesday in Italy he would seek to convince US Foreign Secretary Rex Tillerson, together with his colleagues from the UK, France and Italy, to focus on a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

"We must now get the Russians and many others to the negotiating table," Gabriel said. "For this, the strong support of the USA is necessary," he said.

"It is important that the UN and experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) gain immediate access and can carry out their investigation without hindrance," Gabriel told the German newspaper "Bild am Sonntag."

The retaliatory US cruise missile strikes on Friday on a Syrian airbase were "understandable," Gabriel said. 

The missile strikes were the first time the US has directly targeted al-Assad's forces in the six-year war. Syria agreed to remove its chemical weapons stockpile in 2013 when the US threatened military action after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin chemical attack on a Damascus suburb. 

jbh/kl (AFP)

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