Syria denounced over chemical weapons

UNITED NATIONS, United States, April 16, 2020 (AFP) - UN Security Council members Britain, Estonia and Germany denounced Syria Wednesday for a lack of accountability after being accused of conducting chemical weapons attacks in 2017.

The accusations came in speeches delivered during a closed door Security Council videoconference, and later made public despite confidentiality rules.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons released a report April 8 blaming the Syrian military for chemical weapons attacks on the village of Lataminah in northern Syria in 2017.

The report was raised during the Security Council's monthly meeting -- held by videoconference during the coronavirus pandemic -- by Britain, Estonia and Germany who, unlike the other 12 council members, chose to make their speeches public.

"It remains a fact that the Syrian authorities have not answered the questions raised over their CW program since it was declared," Britain's charge d'affaires at the UN, Jonathan Allen, said.

"By using these terrible weapons, by retaining a chemical weapons capability inconsistent with both its initial declaration and its alleged full destruction of its chemical weapons program in 2014, and by failing to comply fully with the OPCW, Syria remains in breach of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Security Council decisions set out in Resolution 2118," he said.

Estonian Ambassador Sven Jurgenson stressed that the use of chemical weapons "cannot be tolerated."

"Those responsible must be held accountable," he said. "Without accountability, the atrocities will continue. It is regretful that there was a complete lack of cooperation from the Syrians."

German Deputy Ambassador Jurgen Schulz said, "Accountability is essential and impunity for these heinous crimes is not an option."

Wednesday afternoon Russia, which diplomats say boasts of being the guardian of procedures including confidentiality, also released the comments of its Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.

"Syria's chemical weapons (CW) program has been shut down, all its CW stockpiles have been eliminated and production capacities destroyed," Nebenzia said, adding that Damascus was cooperating with the OPCW.

According to the OPCW, two Syrian air force jets dropped two bombs containing the nerve agent sarin on Lataminah on March 24 and March 30, 2017 and a Syrian military helicopter dropped a cylinder containing chlorine on the village on March 25 that year.

In all, 106 people were affected, according to the OPCW.

The Syrian government rejected the report, insisting it contained "falsified and fabricated conclusions."