Thu Oct 05 16:04:49 EAT 2017
Syria's chemical arms: five questions for the OPCW
The world's chemical watchdog said Wednesday the nerve agent sarin was used in an 'incident' in northern Syria, five days before the deadly attack on Khan Sheikhun.
Herewith five questions to Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons director general AhmetUzumcu on Syria's chemical arms:
The Hague, Netherlands / AFP/. The world's chemical watchdog said Wednesday the nerve agent sarin was used in an 'incident' in northern Syria, five days before the deadly attack on Khan Sheikhun. Herewith five questions to Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons director general AhmetUzumcu on Syria's chemical arms:
- Where do we stand with the OPCW's work in Syria? -
We have several times deployed our declaration assessment teams to different sites in Syria since the process was initiated in the spring of 2014. There were some gaps and inconsistencies which needed to be clarified.
We recently met Syria's deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad and we insisted that for instance the scientific research centre in Damascus should be declared as part of Syria's chemical weapons programme.
They have taken this step but there are still some missing aspects, especially in regards to the activities of this centre.
- What is the problem with the research centre?-
The Syrian side so far have denied the involvement of the centre in the chemical weapons programme whereas our experts believe that it was. They have accepted to declare parts of the centre, but there are missing elements in the declaration.
-Why did the OPCW not visit the Khan Sheikhun attack site?-
Since the attack on our fact-finding mission team at KafrZita in May 2014 we have not been able to deploy our teams due to security reasons.
We did make serious efforts to deploy the team to Khan Sheikhun.
However at the last moment the Syrian government provided us with samples collected from the impact site and as a result of this analysis we proved the existence of sarin.
This corroborated the findings of our team from evidence collected from other sources.
We decided it was not worth to go and take unnecessary risks.
-What roles do the OPCW and the JIM play in Syria?-
The OPCW's role is limited by the states parties to find out whether chemical weapons or toxic chemicals were used as a weapon in Syria.
The JIM, (a joint OPCW-United Nations panel) which is completely independent, works on the basis of the OPCW's fact-finding mission (FFM) report. It has to identify those responsible.
The JIM reports to the UN Security Council and is due to release its findings on the Khan Sheikhun attack by the end of this month or early in November.
-Will the JIM's findings be different to those of the OPCW?-
I don't think their findings will be different to that of the OPCW's fact-finding mission as to the use of sarin (at Khan Sheikhun). The challenge is of course to identify the actors of this attacks. The actors of such attacks should certainly be held accountable, prosecuted and punished. That's the only way to keep strong the international norm against the use of chemical weapons.