Russia blocks access of UN inspectors to Douma: French Foreign Minister

Photo showing a Syrian soldier, a Russian military policeman seen during a Syrian army-organised tour for journalists in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, 20 Apr, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 April 2018
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Russia blocks access of UN inspectors to Douma: French Foreign Minister

  • Le Drian said Russia was issuing “contradictory official statements on the chemical attack.”
  • "One day the attack didn’t take place, the next, it was carried out by militants, a day later, it’s a Western manipulation": Le Drian

PARIS: France urged the Syrian regime and its ally Moscow on Friday to grant weapons inspectors immediate access to the site of an alleged chemical attack, accusing them of “obstruction” aimed at eroding the quality of the evidence.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who arrived in Damascus last Saturday, needed “full, immediate and unhindered access” to the site in the town of Douma.
Their mission has been put on hold after a United Nations security assessment team were fired at, and officials at the OPCW have said that Russian and Syrian forces have likely removed key evidence.
“At this time the OPCW investigators still have no access to the chemical attack site in Douma. If Russia and Syria ultimately abide by their commitments, it will take (the investigators) at least two weeks,” Le Drian said in a statement.
“The OPCW mission has as its goal establishing whether a chemical attack indeed took place and identifying the nature of the chemical agent used. This obstruction will obviously harm the quality of the investigation,” he added.
“It seems likely that this attitude is intended to make proof and material evidence linked to the chemical attack disappear.”
France joined the United States and Britain in launching air strikes a week ago against the regime of President Bashar Assad, in retaliation against an alleged chemical attack in Douma which local medics said killed at least 40 people.
Le Drian said Russia was issuing “contradictory official statements on the chemical attack.”
“One day the attack didn’t take place, the next, it was carried out by armed groups,” he said.
“A day later, it’s a Western manipulation. There’s no concern for either coherence or truth when it comes to sowing doubt and confusion.”
He reiterated France’s assertion that it has conclusive evidence of a chemical attack in Douma on April 7 as well as proof that it was carried out by the regime.

 

 


Israel announces plan to approve 2,500 new settler homes in West Bank

Updated 24 May 2018
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Israel announces plan to approve 2,500 new settler homes in West Bank

JERUSALEM: Israel’s defense minister said on Thursday he plans to seek approval next week for the construction of some 2,500 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Avigdor Lieberman, writing on Twitter, said a regional planning board would be asked to designate 1,400 of the housing units for immediate construction.

Settlements are one of the most heated issues in efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, frozen since 2014.

Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Most countries consider settlements that Israel has built in territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war to be illegal.

Israel disputes that its settlements are illegal and says their future should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.

“We will promote building in all of Judea and Samaria, from the north to south, in small communities and in large ones,” Lieberman wrote, using the Biblical names for the West Bank.

There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials, who have long argued that Israeli settlements could deny them a viable and contiguous country.

Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that are also home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians.