By Kamila Aliyeva
Russian diplomat stated that terrorists, not the Syrian government committed the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack last April.
Damascus has never violated its obligations within the framework of the elimination of the chemical arsenal, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Non-Proliferation and Weapons Control Department, Mikhail Ulyanov stated at a news conference on September 26.
"We are keeping a close watch on the situation. There is a huge amount of evidence implicating the terrorists, who set off a sarin bomb ‘on the ground’ for provocative purposes, knowing the blame would be pinned on Damascus," TASS cited Ulyanov as saying.
"In fact, there is not a single violation by Syria, no one has ever found any chemical substances concealed from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)," he said.
The diplomat stressed that a number of countries were using the chemical dossier as a tool for "achieving political goals, as a means of putting pressure on Damascus," resulting in a split of the OPCW.
He went on to say that experts refuse to visit the scene of the alleged April 4 chemical attack in Syria’s Khan Sheikhoun although the security situation allowed this.
The diplomat said "this arouses indignation" that neither investigators from the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission nor experts from the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism have visited Khan Sheikhoun and the Shayrat airbase.
"They are refusing to do this," Ulyanov stressed. "But according to our data, the security situation permits access to this area," he added.
"A report of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism on Khan Sheikhoun and Shairat (air base) will come on October 26. We will study this report, will assess its quality and how serious the investigation was or whether this was once again far-removed from reality. Then we will be able to draw conclusions, as the mandate expires in mid-November, and we will determine whether there is any sense in extending it," the diplomat explained.
Earlier, the UN commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria accused the official government in Damascus of using chemical weapons.
The report, published in Geneva on Wednesday, claimed that chemical agents were used, among other things, in Khan-Sheikhun. According to OPCW experts, sarin or other similar nerve agent was sprayed in the city on that day.
On April 4, the National Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces of Syria reported about 200 wounded and 80 victims of chemical weapons attack in Khan-Sheikhun city of Idlib province. The oppositionists blamed government troops of Syria for the attack. The command of the Syrian army rejected accusations in its address and laid the blame on the militants and their patrons.
Following the April attack, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered an air strike against the Assad-controlled air field. The strike became the first direct military action the U.S. has taken against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's six-year civil war. As many as 59 missiles were fired, according to the Pentagon.
Bashar Assad claimed that there was no chemical attack, but a provocation to justify the strike at Shayrat airbase. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem stated that the Syrian government troops have never used or intend to use chemical weapons against civilians and against terrorists.
The stocks of chemical weapons were successfully exported from Syria. In January 2016 the OPCW announced the complete elimination of the country's chemical industry.
In 2013, the organization received the Nobel Peace Prize for chemical disarmament of Syria.
Kamila Aliyeva is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Kami_Aliyeva
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