Syria – Chemical weapons – OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report on the attack in Khan Shaykhun (30 June 2017)

We welcome the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report, which was released yesterday.

This report unequivocally confirms that sarin, a chemical warfare agent, was used in the Khan Shaykhun attack on April 4, which killed more than 80 people and injured more than 500 others.

The conclusions of the report are indisputable, as are the rigorous methods, the independence of the analysis and the impartiality of the members of the fact-finding mission. They are based on a large number of biological and environmental samples, analyzed by OPCW-certified laboratories.

France itself released a national assessment on April 26, in which we unequivocally established, on the one hand, that sarin was used, which has just been confirmed by the fact-finding mission, and, on the other hand, the regime’s responsibility. This last point now falls within the scope of the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM); we welcome the fact that this mission has now actively resumed its work. We are confident in its ability to establish responsibility. The perpetrators of the atrocities in Khan Shaykhun and the other chemical attacks must be held accountable for their crimes.

The OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report confirms the alarming spread of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, posing an unprecedented challenge to the non-proliferation regime. The OPCW and its members must assume their responsibilities and condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this intolerable violation of the non-proliferation regime.

President Macron’s position in the event of documented use of chemical weapons was extremely clear.

Q - The minister indicated yesterday in his interview to Le Monde that France should work with Russia on four principles, notably the total ban on the use of chemical weapons. In concrete terms, what options are you considering in order to ensure that Damascus complies with the 2013 agreement on dismantling its arsenal?

A - As President Macron announced, France considers the use and manufacture of chemical weapons in Syria to be a red line and will not hesitate to retaliate in the event of a documented chemical attack. In this respect, we want to see the full implementation of UNSCR 2118, which provides for the complete dismantlement of the Syrian regime’s chemical arsenal. The Khan Shaykhun chemical attack demonstrates that the Damascus regime is still not complying with its international obligations, as indicated by the national assessment released by France on June 26.

This topic is a priority with respect to our dialogue with the Russians; we intend to pursue it. We are also working very closely with the Americans on this issue. France will continue to rely on the existing UN and OPCW mechanisms (Declaration Assessment Team, Fact-Finding Mission, Joint Investigative Mechanism) in this respect.

The international regime for the non-proliferation of chemical weapons, the cornerstone of which is the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) which prohibits the development, production, stockpiling and use of such weapons, must be preserved at all costs. It is vital for international peace and security.

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