Syria invites chemical weapons watchdog to investigate Douma attack

Syria invites chemical weapons watchdog to investigate Douma attack
But the fact-finding mission would not assign blame and only establish if chemical weapons were used.
2 min read
10 April, 2018
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied responsibility for the alleged chemical attack [Getty]
The Syrian regime has invited the global chemical watchdog to visit the town where an alleged chemical attack left at least 49 dead over the weekend.

Citing a foreign ministry source, state news agency SANA said the regime was ready to cooperate with a fact-finding team.

"The ministry sent a formal invitation to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to send a team from its fact-finding mission to visit Douma and investigate claims linked to the alleged use of chemical weapons there," it said.

The letter said Syria was ready to "provide all necessary assistance to the mission".

The OPCW's fact-finding mission for Syria was established in 2014 to confirm chemical weapons use, but it does not have the mandate to establish who is responsible.

The UN and OPCW in 2015 established the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), which was set up to establish culpability for chemical weapons attacks.

In October 2017, it found the Syrian regime responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack in April last year. It also previously found the regime responsible for several chlore attacks in 2015 and 2014.

In November 2017, Russia vetoed a measure that would have extended JIM's mandate. 

Syria's announcement came hours after rival UN Security Council proposals by the US and Russia on chemical weapons use in Syria. 

Russia's ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said earlier that the US proposal "contains some unacceptable elements". Moscow said it would propose a "transparent and honest" investigation with the help of the OPCW.

It said Syrian regime forces could ensure the safety of OPCW experts if they were to travel to the scene, he added, criticising previous investigations for having been conducted from a distance.

The OPCW already says it is investigating but that so far only a "preliminary analysis" had taken place.

Syria's offer follows US President Donald Trump threatening an imminent military strike against Syria in response to the alleged chemical attacks.

The Syrian regime's main backer Russia earlier said that it was anxious for the OPCW to "finally start carrying out the functions it was created for".

However, Russian officials have called the accusations of a chemical weapons attack "provocations" and "false news", before any reports could be independently verified.

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