Syria: International investigation into alleged chemical attack

Ⓒ SANA/AFP – Handout – | Photo courtesy of the official Syrian press agency Sana showing a man with a motorcycle holding the Syrian flag in a street in Douma on April 14, 2018

A meeting of the OPCW is scheduled for Monday, the day after the launch in Syria of the investigation of its experts on the alleged chemical attack that led to Western strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and caused a sharp resurgence of tensions diplomatic.

The greatest secrecy surrounds the work of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) mission, whose mandate is to investigate the possible use of chemical weapons but not to identify the perpetrators. Few details have filtered through the planned meeting at the OPCW headquarters in The Hague.

On Sunday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayçal Mokdad visited the hotel where the OPCW mission resides in Damascus and came out three hours later, an AFP journalist said.

OPCW investigative missions always begin with a series of private interviews with officials.

Ⓒ SANA/AFP – HO – | Photo obtained from the Syrian official SANA agency on April 15, 2018 showing members of the regime’s forces in Duma after the departure of the last rebel fighters of the city

On the other hand, it was not confirmed that the experts went on site to Douma, as announced in the morning to AFP a Syrian official. “We will let the team do their job professionally, objectively, impartially and away from any pressure.The results of the investigation will invalidate the false allegations” against Damascus, had assured the Syrian official.

– “Illegal action” –

Ⓒ AFP – Thomas SAINT-CRICQ – | Syria: Western strikes in figures

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a stalwart ally of Syria, warned on Sunday the United States, France and the United Kingdom, the three countries that led the military operation: a new strike and it will be “inevitably the “chaos” in international relations, he said, quoted in a Kremlin statement issued after a telephone conversation with his counterpart Iranian Hassan Rohani, another great ally of the Syrian regime.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced that the United States would take as of Monday new sanctions against Russia in connection with the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

But after this military episode outside the United Nations, Westerners have indicated that they wanted to relaunch diplomacy on the Syrian file, a country that has been plagued since 2011 by a complex war that has claimed more than 350,000 lives.

Messrs. Putin and Rohani, for their part, felt that the “illegal action” of Westerners “seriously damaged the prospects for a political settlement in Syria”.

Ⓒ US Department of Defense/AFP – Jose ROMERO – | Photos provided by the US Department of Defense and presented as those of a chemical weapons storage site in Syria before and after a bombardment of Westerners, April 14, 2018

Denouncing a Western campaign of “deceit and lies”, President Assad asserted that “tripartite aggression” showed that “Syria and Russia are waging a single battle, not only against terrorism but also to protect the law. international law based on respect for the sovereignty of States “.

– American mission unchanged –

Ⓒ AFP – – | Main positions and military actions of foreign countries in the conflict in Syria

Americans, French and British have presented to the UN a new draft resolution on Syria that should be discussed from Monday. The text includes the creation of a new mechanism for investigating the use of chemical weapons.

France “did not declare war” to Syria of Bashar al-Assad, assured Sunday Mr. Macron, who recalled the will of Paris to find an “inclusive” political solution, bringing together all the actors of the crisis .

He said he convinced Trump to keep US troops in Syria “in the long run.” But the White House assured shortly after the mission of US forces deployed in Syria “did not change” and that President Donald Trump said he wanted “US forces return as soon as possible” to the United States. United.

Ⓒ AFP – LOUAI BESHARA – | Syrian soldier photographs rubble of a building in a research center in northern Damascus targeted by US, French and Russian strikes in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack on April 14, 2018, during a visit organized by the Syrian Ministry of Information

Washington, Paris and London on Saturday at the dawn of strikes against three sites presented as linked to a Syrian chemical weapons program, without casualties, in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack on April 7 in Douma, which was then the last rebel stronghold in Ghouta, near Damascus.

Criticized for acting outside the UN, the Prime Minister was to explain Monday in front of the British Parliament.

– Complicated investigation –

In Syria, the work looks complicated for investigators who arrive more than a week after the fact, in an area that has since been under the control of the regime and the Russian military police and ravaged by five years of siege and a violent offensive launched February 18th.

Ⓒ SYRIAN GOVERNMENT’S CENTRAL MILITARY MEDIA/AFP – Handout / STR – | Photo provided by the website of the official Syrian Sana agency, April 14, 2018, showing an explosion on the outskirts of Damascus after Western strikes on sites of the Syrian regime

Duma’s last rebel fighters, as well as civilians, were evacuated Saturday as part of a surrender agreement signed on April 9, two days after the alleged chemical attack.

The region is now “cleansed” of all insurgents, announced the Syrian army.

The regime denied any involvement in the alleged attack which, according to rescue workers in rebel areas, the White Helmets, has left at least 40 dead and hundreds wounded.

In 2014, the OPCW announced that Syria had disposed of its chemical weapons in accordance with an international agreement. In 2017, a joint fact-finding mission with the UN, however, concluded that Damascus had used sarin, a powerful nerve gas, in Khan Cheikhoun (northwest) in an attack where 80 people were killed.

US presidents Donald Trump and Frenchman Emmanuel Macron said they had proof of the use of chemical weapons in Duma.

A US administration official said that the United States had “clearer” information on the use of chlorine but also “significant information” on the use of sarin.

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