UN chief urges Syria to answer questions on chemical weapons

Antonio Guterres says Syria’s failure to answer questions about its chemical weapons program is concerning.

Ben Ariel, Canada,

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday said that Syria’s failure to answer questions from the international chemical weapons watchdog about its chemical weapons program “remains a source of very deep concern”, The Associated Press reported.

While the Syrian government partially addressed some questions raised by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said “other questions regrettably remain unanswered”, added Guterres.

In a letter circulated Friday transmitting the OPCW’s latest report to the Security Council, Guterres said he continues to urge Syria to resolve all outstanding issues.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said in the report that he has repeated his requests to Syrian authorities that unanswered questions about its declarations of chemical weapons “remain and require a response.”

The OPCW’s inspectors last month entered the Syrian town of Douma, where an alleged chemical attack took place in which chlorine and sarin gas was used, killing dozens.

Guterres said “the profoundly alarming allegations” of chemical weapons use in the April 7 attack further underline the need for a new body to determine responsibility for chemical attacks, according to AP.

The OPCW said Friday that its fact-finding mission to Douma brought back samples for analysis at OPCW-designated laboratories — a process that could take at least three to four weeks. Its inspectors are only mandated to establish whether a chemical weapon was used, not to apportion blame.

Russia vetoed a Western-backed council resolution in November that would have extended the mandate of a joint UN-OPCW body charged with determining responsibility for chemical attacks, dooming its operation and making accountability exceedingly difficult.

Moscow also vetoed a U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution that would have set up an investigation into chemical weapons use in Syria following the Douma attack.

Guterres warned Friday that “impunity and the absence of international consensus on accountability are escalating the conflict.”

He reiterated that “any confirmed use of chemical weapons by any party to the conflict is abhorrent, reprehensible and a clear violation of international law” — and perpetrators must be held accountable.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)