France FM urges action on Syria chemical weapon use

France FM urges action on Syria chemical weapon use
The French foreign minister is pressing for a UN resolution on chemical weapon use in Syria.
2 min read
28 August, 2016
The Syrian regime has long been accused of chemical weapon use in Syria [Getty]

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was pressing members of the UN Security Council, including Russia, to condemn the Syrian regime following a report that found Syrian government troops used chemical weapons.

"I see no reason that could be given, or any arguments that could be made, for not condemning the use of chemical weapons," he said, when asked if Russia would support the resolution.

Earlier this week a UN investigation established that President Bashar al-Assad's forces carried out at least two chemical attacks in Syria and that Islamic State [IS] militants used mustard gas as a weapon.

The panel was able to identify the perpetrators of three chemical attacks carried out in 2014 and 2015, but was unable to draw conclusions in the other six cases that it has been investigating over the past year.

The report from the Joint Investigative Mechanism [JIM] found that the Syrian regime dropped chemical weapons on two villages in northwestern Idlib province – Talmenes on 21 April 2014 and Sarmin on 16 March 2015.

In both instances, Syrian air force helicopters dropped "a device" on houses that was followed by the "release of a toxic substance," which in the case of Sarmin matched "the characteristics of chlorine."

The panel found that the Islamic State "was the only entity with the ability, capability, motive and the means to use sulphur mustard" in an attack on the town of Marea in northern Aleppo province on 21 August 2015.

The Assad regime has repeatedly denied that it has used chemical weapons in Syria, but the report said that in all three cases, it had "sufficient information to reach a conclusion on the actors involved."

The JIM was set up by the Security Council a year ago to investigate the use of chemical weapons and for the first time to determine who is responsible for the attacks.

Most of the nine cases investigated pointed to the alleged use of chlorine gas in barrel bombs dropped from helicopters.

Britain, France and the United States had long maintained that only the regime has helicopters, but Russia, Damascus's ally, insisted that there was no concrete proof that Assad's forces carried out the attacks.