Damascus condemned Thursday the accusation of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons of its forces of being responsible for a chlorine gas attack on the city of Latamneh in the center of the country in 2017, describing the report as “misleading”.
In a statement carried by the official Syrian media, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants said that the organization’s report is “misleading and includes false and fabricated conclusions, aimed at falsifying facts and accusing the Syrian government”.
Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed that Syria “rejects its content and form, and at the same time categorically denies its use of toxic gases in the town of Latamneh or in any other Syrian city or village”.
On Wednesday, for the first time, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons accused government forces of responsibility for attacks on Latamneh in Hama Governorate.
The coordinator of the investigation team of the organization Santiago Onati Labordi said in a statement that his team “concluded that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the users of sarin as a chemical weapon in Latamneh on 24 and 30 March 2017 and chlorine… on March 25, 2017 are people belonging to the forces Syrian Air force.
The government forces retook the town in the northern Hama countryside in August 2019, following a four-month-long offensive that targeted the areas of the Al Sham Liberation Headquarters (formerly Al Nusra Front) and other opposition factions in and around Idlib, the neighboring province.
Damascus, which has been repeatedly accused, denies using chemical weapons during the nine years of conflict, and it stresses that it destroyed its chemical arsenal following a Russian-US agreement in 2013, and following an attack Western countries accused Damascus of carrying out and killed hundreds of people in Eastern Ghouta, near the Syrian capital.
For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that the latest report of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Syria was prepared in violation of the principles of conducting the established investigations and the norms of international law.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, indicated during a press conference today, Thursday, that “a narrow circle of interested countries” imposed its rules on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Zakharova added that those countries “imposed the formation of an investigation team contrary to the basic provisions of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the recognized norms of international law,” stressing that “the tasks of the alleged investigation team violate the special powers of the UN Security Council”.
She added that “the authors of the report have become partners in the systematic violation of the principles and procedures of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, concerning the conduct of objective investigations,” which include the need to send experts to the scene.
An aerial bombardment targeting the Latamneh on 30 March resulted in approximately 50 people suffering from asphyxia, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights at the time.
An aerial bombardment on the 25th of the month also targeted a hospital and its surroundings in the town, and it was reported then that breathing problems appeared in the injured people.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed in the year 2018 that sarin and chlorine were used in the Latamneh attacks, without accusing anyone.
Its report is the first Wednesday in which the organization holds a specific agency responsible for the attacks it investigates in Syria.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “It is clear that the Syrian regime is responsible for several chemical attacks,” stressing that “any country’s use of chemical weapons poses an unacceptable threat to the security of all countries and cannot go unpunished”.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, in turn, said that “such a flagrant violation of international law must not go unpunished”.
A report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is expected to be released in the coming months on a chlorine gas attack targeting the city of Douma, near Damascus, in April 2018.