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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Damascus Officially Invited OPCW Experts to Investigate Idlib Incident – Lavrov

A picture taken on April 4, 2017 shows destruction at a hospital in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, following a suspected toxic gas attack.
© AFP 2017/ Omar haj kadour
13:01 15.04.2017(updated 13:20 15.04.2017) Get short URL
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The Syrian government has officially invited experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' (OPCW) headquarters to investigate the alleged chemical attack in Syria's Idlib, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Syrian opposition claimed on April 4 forces loyal to President Bashar Assad had used a chemical gas on people in the northwestern province, killing nearly 80 and injuring 200. Assad argued his government has no chemical weapons after agreeing to have them destroyed in 2013. He also ruled out having used chemicals against own people.
"The government has officially invited the experts by sending a relevant invitation to the organization in The Hague," Lavrov said after a meeting with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Than in Moscow.
Russia will insist, including in the UN Security Council, that the OPCW experts should be sent to the site of an alleged chemical attack in the Syrian province of Idlib as well as to the airbase targeted by an US missile strike as soon as possible, Lavrov said.

"We find it necessary to conduct a thorough, objective, impartial and professional investigation and will insist, in the framework of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and in New York, in the United Nations, on sending inspectors to the site of the incident as well as to the airport, where, according to our colleagues' claims, shells with chemical weapons had been equipped."
Russia hopes that Syrian opposition will ensure safety for experts of the OPCW, he added.
"Concerning the regions that are controlled by the opposition, the so-called High Negotiations Committee's head Riyad Hijab said that he was ready to provide assistance for the investigation. I proceed from the assumption that this includes guarantees of safety for [experts'] access to this part of the Idlib province."
Lavrov added that there is no need for the OPCW to investigate the incident remotely, adding that experts should be provided with full access to the incident site in Idlib and to Syria's Ash Sha'irat airbase targeted by the United States.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani said that Qatar agrees with Russia that it is necessary to conduct a thorough investigation into the chemical attack in the Syrian province of Idlib.
"We agreed with the Russian side that it is crucially important to conduct an independent and unbiased investigation… It is necessary to bring all those responsible to justice and we will support all efforts in this matter," Al-Thani said.
Moscow has demanded a proper investigation into the incident under the auspices of the OPCW before accusing Damascus of carrying out the attack.
Days after the Idlib incident, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian military airfield in Ash Sha’irat, located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the city of Homs. US President Donald Trump said the attack was a response to the alleged chemical weapon use in Syria's Idlib, which Washington blames on the Syrian government. Russia described the attack as an aggression against a sovereign state.
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