Sarin, chlo­rine used in two at­tacks in Syria: OPCW

WATCH­DOG’S CON­CLU­SIONS BASED ON WIT­NESS TES­TI­MONY AND EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL SAM­PLES

The Nation - - WORLD -

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.

Strate­gic

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.

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