France calls for Syria chemical attack reports to be investigated

Syrian children receive treatment for a suspected chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta last year. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 23 May 2019

France calls for Syria chemical attack reports to be investigated

  • US said Syrian government may have carried out a chlorine attack on Sunday in northwest Syria

PARIS: New allegations the Syrian government is using chemical weapons must be looked into, the French foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
The US State Department on Tuesday said it saw signs that the Syrian government may be using chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack on Sunday in northwest Syria.
“We have noted with a degree of alarm these allegations, which need to be looked into,” the foreign ministry said in an online press briefing.
“We have full confidence in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” it added.

Meanwhile, US envoy James Jeffrey said on Wednesday a cease-fire is needed in Syria’s Idlib province where there has been a recent upsurge in violence, and the United States is working toward halting the clashes, which have put tremendous pressure on civilians there, 
“What we really need in Idlib and throughout the country is a cease-fire,” Jeffrey, US special representative for Syria engagement and special envoy to the global coalition to defeat Daesh, said at a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.
“These conflicts, back and forth exchanges....just put tremendous pressure on civilians, they raise the specter of nation-to-nation clash,” he said. “So we’re very much engaged in trying to get this stopped and get it back to the cease-fire we had basically since September.”
At least 180,000 people have fled an upsurge in violence in northwest Syria, the last major stronghold of rebels who have fought against President Bashar Assad’s government since 2011. Government bombing has killed dozens in the past three weeks.
The latest clashes mark the biggest escalation since last summer between Assad and his rebel enemies in Idlib province and a belt of territory around it.
The region, home to an estimated 3 million people, including many who fled other parts of Syria as government forces advanced in recent years, has been partly shielded by a truce agreement since last year, brokered by Russia and Turkey. Much of the recent fighting has hit a buffer zone agreed under that deal.
The Syrian government says it is responding to attacks by Al-Qaeda-linked militants. The dominant insurgent faction in the region is the jihadist Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), although the army offensive has not focused on the central Idlib area where it is most concentrated, an HTS-aligned opposition figure said.


UN warns of possible ‘war crimes’ in Turkish-controlled Syria

Updated 48 min 42 sec ago

UN warns of possible ‘war crimes’ in Turkish-controlled Syria

  • The victims include people perceived to be allied with opposing parties or as being critical of the actions of the Turkish-affiliated armed groups, Bachelet’s office said
  • Those affiliated groups have also seized and looted houses, land and property without any apparent military necessity, said OHCHR

GENEVA: Armed groups in the area of northern Syria controlled by Turkey may have committed war crimes and other violations of international law, the UN rights chief said Friday.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the situation in those areas of Syria was grim, with violence and criminality rife.
In a statement, Bachelet’s UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said it had noted an “alarming pattern in recent months of grave violations,” having documented increased killings, kidnappings, unlawful transfers of people, seizures of land and properties and forcible evictions.
The victims include people perceived to be allied with opposing parties or as being critical of the actions of the Turkish-affiliated armed groups, Bachelet’s office said.
Those affiliated groups have also seized and looted houses, land and property without any apparent military necessity, said OHCHR.
Furthermore, increased infighting among the various Turkish-affiliated armed groups over power-sharing was causing civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.
Turkey controls large stretches of northeastern Syria through various armed groups, and is conducting operations aimed at driving out Kurdish militias and extremists.
In October last year, Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies occupied a 120-kilometer (75-mile) stretch of land inside the Syrian border from Kurdish forces.
Ankara has also deployed forces in several military posts it established in northwestern Idlib as part of a 2018 deal with regime ally Moscow, while Turkey also controls a stretch of territory along its border in neighboring Aleppo province following a series of military offensives since 2016.Bachelet’s office said it had documented the abduction and disappearance of civilians, including women and children.
It also said that from the start of the year until last Monday, it had verified the deaths of at least 116 civilians as a result of improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war, while a further 463 civilians were injured.
“I urge Turkey to immediately launch an impartial, transparent and independent investigation into the incidents we have verified, account for the fate of those detained and abducted by the affiliated armed groups and hold accountable those responsible for what may, in some instances, amount to crimes under international law, including war crimes,” Bachelet said.
“This is all the more vital given that we have received disturbing reports that some detainees and abductees have allegedly been transferred to Turkey following their detention in Syria by affiliated armed groups.”
Meanwhile Bachelet voiced concern that parties to the conflict in Syria were using essential services as a weapon.
“Impeding access to water, sanitation and electricity endangers the lives of large numbers of people, a danger rendered all the more acute amid fighting a global pandemic,” she said.