Q - Three weeks after the attack in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 in Syria, France publicly released, through the Quai d’Orsay, a national assessment of what happened. In September 2017, France took note of the conclusions of the report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, led by Sergio Pinheiro. In this report, the Commission underlines that three chemical attacks, involving in these instances the use of chlorine gas, had been reported in July 2017 and the Quai d’Orsay had paid “the utmost attention to the corroborating evidence provided by the Commission with respect to various types of chemical weapons attacks that took place in 2017.” Is France calling the report’s conclusions into question and does it intend, for reasons of transparency, to swiftly publish a French assessment of chemical attacks believed to have taken place since July 2017 as had been promptly done just three weeks after the attack in Khan Sheikhoun?
A - Assessing whether a chemical weapon or toxic substance has been used requires in-depth scientific analysis in a laboratory.
France enforces this very strict rule before taking any measures and is actively working with its partners on recent reports of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
As President Macron indicated, France continues to be extremely vigilant and will not accept any violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Q - Does France maintain the legal view that chlorine gas is one of the chemical weapons that are prohibited under the treaties?
A - Chlorine gas per se is not one of the substances that are prohibited under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.
This does not however preclude the fact that chlorine gas may be a chemical weapon that is prohibited by the convention when it is diverted from its peaceful purpose and used as a chemical weapon, notably as a choking agent, as might currently be the case in Syria.