French FM: Assad chemical attack comments 100% lies

French FM: Assad chemical attack comments 100% lies
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says Assad's dismissal of chemical attack allegations are '100 percent cruelty and cynicism.'
3 min read
14 April, 2017
Assad denies the chemical attack took place [AFP]
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's comments that last week's chemical weapons attack was a fabrication to justify a US military strike are "100 percent lies", French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Friday.

"It's 100 percent lies and propaganda," Ayrault said during a visit to Beijing, responding to an exclusive AFP interview with Assad on Wednesday. 

"It's 100 percent cruelty and cynicism."

The French minister mirrored language used by Assad himself, who dismissed the allegation that his regime perpetrated the attack that left 87 civilians dead, including many children.

"Definitely, 100 percent for us, it's fabrication," Assad said in the interview.

The Syrian leader questioned whether the attack had in fact occurred, claiming that "fake videos" and "propaganda" were being used against his government. 

"You have a lot of fake videos now," Assad said. "We don't know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all?"

He also accused the United States of colluding with terrorists and "fabricating the whole story in order to have a pretext" for a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base last week.

The French minister made the remarks during a joint press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

"The reality is that more than 300,000 have died, 11 million people have been displaced or become refugees, tens of thousands have been placed in Syrian prisons and a country has been destroyed," Ayrault said.

"That is the reality. It is not a fantasy."

He emphasised the need for an end to the conflict with a "real ceasefire, one which restricts the Syrian air force and military and is upheld by the international community."

Ayrault praised China's role in the matter, noting its abstention from a United Nations Security Council vote on a resolution to condemn the Syrian gas attack.

In the past, China has voted alongside Russia to veto UN resolutions on the Syrian conflict. 

Wang expressed his agreement with the French minister, noting that an "independent, fair and professional investigation" into the chemical weapons attack should be conducted "as soon as possible."

The regime attack on the rebel-held town on April 4 killed at least 89 people, including 31 children, and saw hundreds suffer symptoms consistent with a nerve agent.

Shocking video evidence showed dead bodies and injured victims, mostly children, shaking while foaming at the mouth, sparking global outrage.

The attack was not the first time the Syrian regime has used toxic weapons.

In November, a joint investigation by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found that several units of the Syrian regime's forces had used chemicals against three villages in northern Syria in 2014 and 2015.

It was the first time an international probe blamed Bashar al-Assad's forces after years of denial from Damascus.