US, UK, France pledge to act against new Syria chemical attacks

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley holds photos of victims at the UN Security Council on April 5, 2017, about the suspected deadly chemical attack in Syria. (AFP)
Updated 23 August 2018
0

US, UK, France pledge to act against new Syria chemical attacks

  • The 2012 US-Russia agreement required Syria to join the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and declare all its chemical weapons and precursors
  • The US, UK and France also expressed grave concern at reports of a Syrian government military offensive against civilians

UNITED NATIONS: The US, Britain and France vowed on the fifth anniversary of a chemical weapons attack that they blame on the Syrian government to take action as they have in the past against any further attacks by Bashar Assad’s regime.

A joint statement issued late on Tuesday called the Aug. 21, 2012 sarin nerve gas attack that killed hundreds of people in the Ghouta suburb of Damascus “horrific.” The use of sarin led to a US-Russian agreement to eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons, which averted US military strikes against Syria.
Since then, the three Western powers have accused Syria of resorting to the use of chemical weapons during military offensives in Khan Sheikhoun, Ltamenah, Saraqeb and Douma. Following the suspected chemical attack in Douma in April, the US, UK, and France launched punitive military strikes in Syria.
“As we have demonstrated, we will respond appropriately to any further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, which has had such devastating humanitarian consequences for the Syrian population,” the statement said.
The three governments implored Assad’s supporters “to recognize that the unchecked use of chemical weapons by any state presents an unacceptable security threat to all states.”
The US, UK and France also expressed grave concern at reports of a Syrian government military offensive against civilians, schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in the northern province of Idlib, the last major rebel-held bastion, and underlined “our concern at the potential for further — and illegal — use of chemical weapons.”
“We remain resolved to act if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons again,” the Western allies warned.
The 2012 US-Russia agreement required Syria to join the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and declare all its chemical weapons and precursors.
Assad said in an interview in June with Russia’s state-controlled NTV television channel that his government got rid of all its chemical weapons in 2013 and that allegations of their use are a pretext for invasion by other countries.
But there is growing frustration at Damascus’ failure to satisfactorily answer all outstanding questions from the OPCW about its declaration.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated in a letter transmitting the latest OPCW report to the Security Council that all open issues in the declaration must be resolved, and he strongly encouraged the Syrian government to do so.
The US, UK, and France welcomed the June 27 decision by OPCW member nations to take over the responsibility for determining blame for chemical attacks, saying this “will help ensure that the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in Syria cannot escape identification.”
The Security Council established a joint UN-OPCW investigative team in August 2015 to determine responsibility for chemical attacks in Syria.
The so-called Joint Investigative Mechanism, known as JIM, accused Syria of using chlorine gas in at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 and the nerve agent sarin in an aerial attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 that killed about 100 people and affected about 200 others. The Khan Sheikhoun attack led to a US airstrike on a Syrian
airfield.
The JIM also accused the Daesh group of using mustard gas twice in 2015 and 2016.
Russia, a close ally of the Assad government, vetoed a Western-backed resolution last November that would have renewed the JIM mandate, leaving no way to determine accountability for chemical attacks in Syria.
A Western-led campaign that included the US, UK and France succeeded in expanding the OPCW’s investigations, which were limited to determining if chemical weapons were used in Syria, so that it can now determine responsibility for attacks as well.


Palestinians say one killed as Israeli troops fire on Gaza protest

Updated 3 min 18 sec ago
0

Palestinians say one killed as Israeli troops fire on Gaza protest

GAZA: Israeli forces opened fire during a demonstration in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, killing a Palestinian youth, the Palestinian health ministry said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said troops came under attack on the border fence in the southern Gaza Strip, stones and firebombs were thrown at them and they responded with “riot dispersal means.” Live rounds were fired according to “open-fire regulations,” she said.
Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesman for Gaza’s health ministry, said 15-year-old Moamen Ibrahim Abu Eyada was shot dead by Israeli soldiers east of the town of Rafah, which lies at the southern end of the Gaza Strip and borders Egypt.
The border between Gaza and Israel has been the scene of weekly Palestinian demonstrations since March 30 and protests have recently taken place late at night, as was the case on Wednesday.
The Israeli military said earlier there had been several incidents along the Gaza-Israel border on Wednesday “with the participation of hundreds of rioters” who rolled burning tires and hurled firebombs and rocks at soldiers. It said there were no Israeli casualties.
At least 182 Palestinians have been killed in the protests, according to Palestinian health officials.
The Israeli army says it is defending its border against rioting protesters who have sought to breach the fence and enter Israel.
Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintains tight control of its land and sea borders and has fought three wars there in the past decade against Hamas Islamist militants who control the territory.
With Egypt, Israel has imposed a blockade that the World Bank says has brought Gaza’s economy to crisis, leaving its 2 million people with limited access to health care, clean water and electricity.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since 2014.