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Syrian Chemical Weapons Concerns


children are seen receiving oxygen in Kfar Zeita after chlorine gas attack. (File)

The second interim report by the Fact Finding Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons concludes that chlorine was almost certainly used as a weapon in attacks on three villages in northern Syria earlier this year.

The second interim report by the Fact Finding Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, concludes that chlorine was almost certainly used as a weapon in attacks on three villages in northern Syria earlier this year. The report cites witness accounts indicating helicopters were used in systematic and repeated attacks, a capability the opposition lacks. "This strongly points to Syrian regime culpability," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a recent statement.

Chlorine is a toxic industrial gas; its use as a weapon of war is prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention, even though chlorine is not specifically listed in the treaty as a chemical weapon. As Secretary Kerry said during recent Congressional testimony, "We believe there is evidence of Assad’s use of chlorine, which when you use it - despite it not being on the list - is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention."

The OPCW report raises serious questions about the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s compliance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118, both requiring him to give up his chemical weapons program.

The OPCW also noted a spate of reports about additional attacks in late August, "with accounts of the incidents bearing a strong resemblance to those that are now confirmed as having been chlorine attacks." This observation, along with questions regarding the accuracy and completeness of Syria's disclosure of its chemical weapons program to the OPCW, raises troubling concerns regarding Syria’s willingness to continue using chemical weapons to kill or injure the people of Syria.

The United States, said Secretary Kerry, is gravely concerned about the findings in this report. The Assad regime must know that it will be held to account by the international community for the use of chemical weapons against its own people.

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