PARIS, April 13. /TASS/. The Syrian authorities insist on an impartial investigation into the alleged chemical weapons attack in Idlib and believe that the US had taken advantage of this incident to strike a Syrian air base, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an exclusive interview with Agence France-Presse.
"We can only allow any investigation when it’s impartial, when we make sure that unbiased countries will participate in this delegation in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicized purposes," Assad said.
The Syrian president also stated that all allegations about Damascus being involved in the chemical weapons attack were fabricated. "Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack," Assad added.
The Syrian leader also said that "we don’t have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago."
When speaking about videos showing the outcome of the alleged chemical attack, Assad said that "you have a lot of fake videos now." "We don't know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all?" he added.
According to the Syrian president, Washington has been using the Geneva talks in order to support the Syrian opposition who has been losing ground. "The United States is not serious in achieving any political solution. They want to use it as an umbrella for the terrorists," he said.
At the same time, Assad pointed out that the Syrian army’s military capabilities had not been affected. "Our firepower, our ability to attack the terrorists hasn’t been affected by this strike," he said.
On April 7, US President Donald Trump ordered a strike on Syria’s Shayrat military air base located in the Homs Governorate. The attack, involving 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM), came as a response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Idlib Governorate on April 4. The US authorities believe that the airstrike on Idlib was launched from the Shayrat air base.
The Syrian military denied its involvement in the attack. Russia’s Defense Ministry said that on April 4, the Syrian air force had delivered an airstrike on the eastern outskirts of the town of Khan Shaykhun to destroy militant facilities used to produce chemical bombs. These bombs were sent to Iraq and were previously used in Aleppo.
Russia strongly opposed the US missile strike. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow considered the attack to be an act of aggression against a sovereign state. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in turn, said that the aggression was carried out under a false pretext.
On April 12, Russia vetoed the draft resolution demanding that Damascus provide the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) with full information on warplanes’ flights conducted on April 4, as well as grant access to air bases that could have been used for delivering the airstrike on Khan Shaykhun. After the voting, Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vladimir Safronkov said that had the draft resolution been adopted, it would have justified the US missile attack on Syria which actually had been a violation of international law.
On April 12, during US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Moscow, Russia came up with an initiative to set up an expanded expert group to investigate into the alleged chemical attack.