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UN, OPCW have data on over 100 chemical attacks in Syria — report

August 25, 13:55 UTC+3 UNITED NATIONS
There's data on 13 cases of sarin use, 12 attacks with the use of mustard gas, 4 cases of VX nerve agent use, 41 incidents of chlorine exposure and 61 instances of other chemical agents' use
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© AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

UNITED NATIONS, August 25. /TASS/. The United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have received data on over 100 possible chemical attacks in Syria since December 2015, according to a report of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism submitted to the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

Specialists of the UN and the OPCW are investigating the cases of the use of chemical agents in Syria from December 2015 to August 2016.

According to the document, a copy of which was obtained by TASS, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism has data on 13 cases of the use of sarin, 12 attacks with the use of mustard gas (yperite), four cases of the use of VX nerve agent, 41 incidents when people were exposed to the impact of chlorine and 61 instances of the combat use of other chemical agents.

The report also claims that the data gathered by experts of the UN and the OPCW point to the possible complicity of the government of the Syrian Arab Republic and other players in these possible incidents.

Blame put on Syrian government, Islamic State

The specialists of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism spent several months, studying nine chemical attacks committed in 2014-2015.

The investigators were able to make conclusions on those responsible for the chemical attacks only in three cases. As the experts claim, in two of these instances (in the town of Talmenes on April 21, 2014 and in the town of Sarmin on March 16, 2015, with both towns located in the Idlib province), containers with chlorine were dropped from helicopters of the Syrian Air Force.

In the third incident that took place in the town of Marea in the province of Aleppo on August 21, 2015, militants of the Islamic State terrorist organization were the only forces that had the possibilities, motives and means for using chemical weapons, the report says.

The OPCW-UN specialists claim that they have sufficient information confirming the complicity of Syrian government forces in the chemical attacks in the province of Idlib. The conclusions are based, among other things, on the evidence of eye-witnesses and a forensic expert study. Thus, according to the specialists, the remainder of a shell found at the place of the attack in Sarmin corresponds to the design of a barrel bomb - a weapon used by the Syrian aviation.

The experts have taken into account the data received from Damascus that at the time of the attacks the government forces had lost control of six aerodromes in the province of Idlib. Moreover, one of the airbases accommodated 15 helicopters, including nine choppers fit for operation.

However, the investigators from the OPCW-UN cast doubts over the truthfulness of the version, under which the air attack had been carried out by the militants.

As the report says, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism has studied all the data collected and found no evidence that armed opposition groups in Talmenes flew a helicopter at the time of the incident.

With regard to three other incidents (in Kafr Zita on April 18, 2014, Qumenes and Binnish in March 2015), the specialists spoke for the continuation of the probe. At the same time, they recommended to give up further investigation of three other cases (in Kafr Zita on April 11, 2014 and Al-Taman in April 2014 and May 2015). As the specialists said, they had received either contradictory or insufficient information to identify those responsible for the attacks.

The almost 100-page report includes detailed data on each of the nine cases examined by the UN-OPCW investigators. In particular, the report and its addendum give the evidence of eye-witnesses, the conclusions of forensic study and medical experts, and also the results of the analysis of video footage.

UN Security Council to examine the matter

The report prepared by the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism will be discussed at a meeting of the UN Security Council that will be held behind closed doors on August 30. The delegations of three UN Security Council permanent members (the United Kingdom, the United States and France) have already said that they will seek measures against those responsible for the chemical attacks.

Syria agreed in September 2013 to place its chemical weapons at the disposal of the international community for their subsequent liquidation as part of a deal concluded between Moscow and Washington. The deal was preceded by a gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus, which killed from 280 to 1,700 people, according to various data. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday, by convincing Syrian President Bashar Assad to give up chemical weapons stocks, Russia prevented a US strike against Syria whose consequences would have been destructive.

The agreement on Syria’s chemical disarmament was sealed by UN Security Council Resolution 2118 adopted on September 27, 2013. The UN Security Council warned in this resolution that in case of the use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria, it might take measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which admits of the possibility of imposing sanctions and using military force.

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