UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced alarm on Wednesday over reports of chemical attacks in Syria and urged the Security Council to take action to address “such serious crimes.”
The appeal came after Guterres met on Tuesday with the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has investigated more than 70 cases of toxic gas attacks in Syria since 2014.
“The secretary-general is alarmed at the persistent allegations of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic,” said a UN statement.
While the use of chemical weapons is “unjustifiable and abhorrent”, “equally unjustifiable is a lack of response to such use”, said the statement.
Guterres renewed a call to the council “to demonstrate unity and resolve on this matter.” The statement added: “Impunity cannot prevail with respect to such serious crimes.”
OPCW chief Ahmet Uzumcu said there had been “several” recent allegations of chemical weapons use in eastern Ghouta, where the Assad regime is waging a brutal onslaught to take control over the enclave near Damascus.
Karel van Oosterom, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations and President of the Security Council for the month of March, said that all UN Security Council members reaffirmed support for OPCW and its work in Syria.
Oosterom pointed out that the Council stressed that the use of chemical weapons in Syria constituted a violation of International Law and that all individuals, entities or entities involved must be held accountable. He was speaking following a closed and informal consultations called by his country on Wednesday.
On Sunday, Human Rights Watch said that it had evidence of the use of internationally banned weapons by the Assad regime and Russian forces in the ongoing onslaught on eastern Ghouta. These weapons included cluster munitions, incendiary munition, and chemical weapons.
A joint UN-OPCW investigation last year found that the Assad regime was responsible for the sarin attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province on April 4 of 2017 that claimed the lives of dozens of civilians. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)