Middle East Syria

Chemical-Related Issues in Syria Used for Politicized Purposes: OPCW Chief

Damascus (Tasnim) – Director General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Ahmet Uzumcu said all issues in Syria, including those related to purported gas attacks there, are usually used for politicized purposes.

“All the state parties with the chemical weapons convention have the obligation to declare their chemical weapons, to declare their production facilities and to destroy them under the verification of the OPCW based on a plan of destruction, which is approved by the executive council of the OPCW. This has been done over the past 20 years and some destruction activities are still continuing in the two major possessive states, in Russian Federation, and in the United States,” Ahmet Uzumcu told the Tasnim news agency.

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He added, “As to the prevention of production of those weapons anywhere in the world, this is the responsibility, in fact, of the state parties to comply with their obligations not to develop, not to store, and not to use them in the future. This convention does not recognize any exceptions so it is non-discriminatory and no state party has the right to continue to possess chemical weapons, any single of them. But there are of course non-state actors or terrorists which produce chemical weapons and use them. So it is not within our ability, in fact, to comply with the convention and not to use such weapons anywhere under any circumstances.”

“If states parties attempt to produce and use chemical weapons, of course, there are mechanisms within the convention like challenge inspection…, which can be used to identify those who commit such violations of the convention or who act outside or beyond the convention obligations and there are of course consequences for that.”

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If a member country uses chemical weapons, then the policy-making organization of the OPCW can take some measures, and these measures are not clearly identified by the convention but this may go to the temporary suspension of the membership, Uzumcu stressed, saying, “But also the organization has the obligation to report to the UN security council any violation of the chemical weapons convention. Then the UN Security Council may take additional measures against those countries, which violate their obligations.”

Elsewhere in the interview, the director general of the OPCW referred to the April 4 purported gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib Province, which the Western countries blamed on the Syrian government and noted, “Actually, the chemical weapons convention is a science-based and technical treaty and everything we do…needs to be supported by scientific evidence, by technical findings and that is what we have been doing in investigating recent allegations of use in Syria. And all the reports provided and submitted by the fact-finding mission do incorporate some results of analyses at certified laboratories of the OPCW and based on interviews of victims, based on interviews with health personnel who treated those victims and they are cross-checked…and this is the result of such an investigation that we submit to the state parties.”

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“It is true that because of the situation in Syria, all those issues are being somehow politicized to my regret. They should not be politicized, but they are being politicized…we make our outmost in fact to not get into politics,” he added.

“The mandate of the fact-finding mission is limited to determine whether chemical weapons are used or not. The fact-finding mission does not have the task the actors or perpetrators of those attacks. So bearing this in mind, we, in fact, tried to collect all the information which was available on the incident…and the fact-finding mission was also prepared to go to Khan Sheikhun and we made arrangements for that and they were deployed to Damascus before traveling to the north, to Khan Sheikhun which is the northern part of Syria. But at that stage, the Syrian government provided some samples to our team which were collected from the impact site…some soil samples that the Syrian government authorities themselves analyzed and they found Sarin. This let us make a new evaluation because the results of these analyses, in fact, confirmed everything we found from other sources. So bearing in mind the security risks and seeing that the Syrian authorities also do confirm through those samples that Sarin was used, we decided not to put at risk our team and go to Khan Sheikhun,” Uzumcu further said.

Over 80 people died in the April 4 gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhun.

RELATED: US Threatens Response to Syria Chemical Attack That Hasn’t Even Happened

Using the incident as a pretext, US warships fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea at the Shayrat airfield in Syria’s central province of Homs on April 7. US officials claimed that the suspected Khan Sheikhun gas attack had been launched from the military site.

Assad described the chemical incident as “a false flag play just to justify the attack on the Shayrat base.”

This post originally ran on Tasnim News Agency.


Also published on Medium.