UN team fired upon in Syria while visiting suspected chemical sites
19 April, 2018, 06:08
Global inspectors have entered the Syrian town where an alleged chemical attack was carried out earlier this month, Syrian state media reports, after they had waited for days in the capital for permission from Syrian and Russian authorities.
The United States has raised concerns that Russian Federation might have tampered with evidence on the scene - a charge Russian Federation vehemently denies - and it remains to be seen what investigators will find and what they'll have access to.
As a result, we may never have definitive proof that Syrian forces or any other group were behind the suspected Douma chemical attack, even as the U.S. and others insist there is clear evidence implicating the Syrian regime.
In an interview with French television, French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that the weekend air strikes against Syrian government targets had succeeded in engineering a split in the Russia-Turkey alliance.
"It is highly likely that evidence and essential elements disappear from the site, which is completely controlled by the Russian and Syrian armies", the French foreign ministry said.
The head of the OPCW said on Monday that its investigators had been prevented from going to the scene by Syria and Russian authorities.
Both Syria and its most powerful ally, Russia, deny a chemical attack took place.
The U.S., France, and Britain launched missile strikes against suspected chemical weapons facilities one week later, after concluding that Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces were behind the attack.
Ken Ward, the US ambassador to the chemical weapons watchdog, claimed Monday that the Russians had already visited the site and "may have tampered with it", which Moscow rejected.
Experts arrived in Damascus on Saturday, but they have been unable to visit the nearby town of Douma because of "security issues" cited by Russian Federation.
Syrian state TV and the White Helmets volunteer rescue group said separately on Tuesday that the OPCW team had arrived in the area, only to be contradicted by a US State Department spokeswoman.
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari on Tuesday told a meeting of the UN Security Council that the team of experts would begin work on Wednesday once they receive the all-clear from their security detail.
Dumayr is near the eastern Ghouta region, which came under full government control last week after a weekslong offensive and an alleged chemical weapons attack. At least 40 people are believed to have been killed in the attack.
The Associated Press, during a government-organized visit Monday to Douma, spoke to survivors and witnesses who described being hit by gas.
But the American ambassador to the OPCW claimed the Russians may have already visited the site.
"Three countries have intervened, and let me be quite frank, quite honest - this is for the honor of the worldwide community", he said in the French city of Strasbourg.
Explosions were heard in the areas of the two bases, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict via a network of sources in the country.
Jasarevic further denied the suggestions that the organization's staff had carried out a mission to Syria's Douma earlier in the day.
The United Nations says its special envoy for Syria is undertaking intensive high-level consultations with senior officials in key countries on options for "a meaningful relaunch" of U.N. -facilitated political negotiations.
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