Sarin, chlorine used in two attacks in Syria: OPCW
WATCHDOG’S CONCLUSIONS BASED ON WITNESS TESTIMONY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SAMPLES
DEADLY SARINsarin and chlorine were used in two separate attacks in the village of Latamneh in northwestern Syria in late March last year, the world’s chemical weapons watchdog has revealed.
“Sarin was very likely used as a chemical weapon in the south” of Latamneh on March 24, 2017, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement.
Its fact-finding mission “also concluded that chlorine was very likely used as a chemical weapon” at Latamneh’s hospital and surrounding area on March 25, 2017.
Five days later, on March 30, Latamneh suffered a third attack in which sarin was also used, OPCW director Ahmet Uzumcu said.
The 24 March sarin attack comes almost two weeks before the deadly strike on the then opposition-held and nearby village of Khan Sheikhun that left more than 80 people dead.
The Khan Sheikhun attack on April 4 last year was previously believed to have been the first use of Sarin by the Syrian regime since the deadly August 2013 attack in and around Damascus which killed hundreds of people.
Two days after Khan Sheikhun, the United States fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase from which it said the attack was launched.
The latest conclusions by the OPCW on the March 24 and 25 attacks “are based on separate witness testimony, epidemiological analysis and environmental samples,” the OPCW said.
The large mass of information “required a longer period of time to draw conclusions,” it said.
The FFM’s report has been shared with the organisation’s members and has been “transmitted to the UN Security Council,” it said.
The latest findings on the Latamneh attacks also come as the results of the attack on the Syrian town of Douma is awaited.
There, medics and rescuers say 40 people died in a chlorine and sarin attack on April 7.
The Douma attack, attributed to Syrian forces by the West, triggered missile strikes against alleged chemical weapons sites in Syria by the US, Britain and France.
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that talks led by Moscow on the future of the south of the country were ongoing, but warned that Israel and the United States were preventing a negotiated settlement.
In an interview with Iran’s AlAlam television channel broadcast late Wednesday, Assad said that after regime forces captured Ghouta from rebels in April, “it was suggested that we should move south”.
“We were faced with two options ... reconciliation or liberation by force. At this point, the Russians suggested the possibility of giving reconciliation an opportunity,” he said.
“Up till now, there are no concrete results for a simple reason which is Israeli and American interference; for they put pressure on the terrorists in that area in order to prevent reaching any compromise or peaceful resolution,” he added.
Russia called late last month for urgent negotiations with the US and Jordan on the south, and President Vladimir Putin has discussed Syria with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It’s a prized region for nearly all stakeholders in Syria’s war due to its strategic geographical position: the south borders Jordan and the Israelioccupied Golan Heights, but also lies close to Damascus.
Typically bitterly divided over Syria, most of the powers involved seem to agree on a government comeback in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra, 70 per cent of which is controlled by rebel groups. The Islamic State group has a limited presence in the region.
Assad said that “contacts are still ongoing between the Russians, the Americans, and the Israelis”.
Asked about the possibility of a settlement that included Iran leaving the south, Assad said: “The SyrianIranian relationship is a strategic one not subject to a deal in the south or in the north ... it is not subject to the price tags of the international bazaar.”
The government has regained control of much of Syria with Russian backing and a win in the south would cap a string of victories this year.
Regime forces recaptured Ghouta after a ferocious offensive that displaced tens of thousands.