Syria’s deputy foreign minister denied on Monday that his government ever used chemical weapons or chlorine during the country’s brutal civil war, reports The Associated Press (AP).
The deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, warned that “terror groups”, the Syrian government’s term to describe rebels, are using such weapons.
Mekdad was speaking at a meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as the group comes close to fully eliminating Damascus’ deadly stockpile of nerve agents and poison gas.
He said that terror groups “have used chlorine gas in several of the regions of Syria and Iraq.”
Activists in Syria said several months ago that over 100 people had been killed in a chlorine gas attack in the town of Talmenes in Idlib province, and the United Nations Security Council has called for an investigation into the alleged attack. Since then there were reports of other such attacks.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has warned the Bashar Al-Assad regime it would be held to account for using chlorine gas against civilians.
While the Assad regime may or not have used chemical weapons, there have also been reports that Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists used chlorine gas during fighting with security forces and Shiite militiamen north of Baghdad, Iraq.
Assad’s government also is widely believed to have unleashed chemical weapons during the civil war, despite its repeated denials.
Chlorine gas is readily available and used in industry around the world, but can also be used as a weapon.
In a preliminary report issued in September, the fact-finding mission concluded that a toxic chemical, almost certainly chlorine, was used “systematically and repeatedly” as a weapon in attacks on villages in northern Syria earlier this year, but didn’t apportion blame.