UN briefed on 'new chemical weapons' attack in Syria

UN briefed on 'new chemical weapons' attack in Syria
A possible chemical weapons attack involving sarin in the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh last month and other attacks in Syria have been officially reported by the chemical weapons watchdog agency.
2 min read
06 January, 2016
Even after Syria handed over chemical weapons stockpiles, chemical attacks continued to be reported [Getty]
The acting UN disarmament chief told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that the chemical weapons watchdog agency has reported a possible use of the deadly nerve agent sarin in an alleged chemical attack in Syria.

Kim Won-soo spoke to several reporters after briefing the Security Council behind closed doors on the latest report from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The report said OPCW investigators who looked at 11 incidents of alleged use of toxic chemicals in Syria came across one instance of blood samples indicating "that individuals were at some point exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance."

It said "further investigation would be necessary to determine when or under what circumstances such exposure might have occurred."

The OPCW only carries out fact-finding missions, but the Security Council in August established an expert team that will seek to assign blame for chemical attacks in Syria's civil war.

OPCW spokesman Malik Ellahi said there hasn't yet been a decision taken on which body should conduct any further investigation.

The opposition Syrian National Coalition has urged the OPCW to investigate an alleged chemical attack last month in the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh which has been under siege by government forces.

The opposition coalition blamed President Bashar al-Assad's regime, but the Syrian government has denied carrying out chemical attacks. It has blamed the opposition, including the Islamic State (IS) group, who controls about a third of the country.

Kim said OPCW fact-finding teams are still assessing reports of alleged chemical attacks, carrying out investigations, and sending their findings to the UN expert body, called the Joint Investigative Mechanism. "Then, the JIM will do its own investigation," he said.

The report also raises several outstanding issues including questions about the Syrian government's completion of the destruction of its declared chemical weapons stockpile as called for under an international agreement.