Chemical watchdog accepts Russia's offer to aid Syria probe

OPCW accepts Russia's offer to provide it with possible evidence of chemical attack in Aleppo.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

UN chemical weapons experts in Syria
UN chemical weapons experts in Syria

A global watchdog probing chemical arms attacks in Aleppo on Tuesday accepted Russia’s offer to provide some possible evidence saying it "may be of use" to their investigation, AFP reports.

The Russian military said on November 11 that it had evidence of the use of chemical weapons by rebels in Syria's besieged eastern city of Aleppo.

The military said in a statement that its experts "have found unexploded artillery ammunition belonging to terrorists which contains toxic substances."

On Tuesday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed it had "recently received an offer from Russian authorities to provide some samples and other material in relation to an incident of alleged use of chemicals as weapons in Aleppo."

"These samples and other material may be of use in the ongoing work of the OPCW fact-finding mission," the organization said in a statement quoted by AFP.

It said it had "proposed" to the Russian foreign ministry that given the ongoing conflict in Aleppo, it would be better "to receive such material in Damascus or The Hague."

"At present, the OPCW is awaiting a response," the statement added.

The OPCW, based in The Hague, has launched a fact-finding mission to investigate chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

The mission is feeding its reports to a joint UN-OPCW panel, whose mandate has just been extended for a year.

The joint panel recently concluded that government forces carried out three chemical attacks on villages in 2014 and 2015.

The UN-OPCW panel also found that the ISIS in Syria used mustard gas as a weapon in August 2015, one of several past assessments that ISIS had used chemical weapons in both Syria and Iraq.

The OPCW chief, Ahmet Uzumcu, told AFP last week his organization had received more than 20 reports of chemical attacks since August 1.

On Tuesday, Syrian pro-government forces pushed deeper into eastern Aleppo with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights saying some residents of the Qaterji and Dahjer Awad districts experienced breathing difficulties after four barrel bombs were dropped which may have contained chlorine gas.

Barrel bombs are crude weapons -- containers packed with explosives and scrap metal that are typically dropped from helicopters.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has been accused of using these weapons, but has repeatedly denied the accusations and has claimed in interviews that no such weaponry exists.

Russia has previously dismissed the findings of the joint investigative mechanism as "unconvincing" and said no sanctions should be imposed on Syria for chlorine gas attacks.

AFP contributed to this report.