The United States will work through the United Nations to send a “clear message” to the Assad regime after a joint investigation by the UN and a chemical weapons watchdog attributed a third use of chlorine gas to regime forces, the State Department said Friday.
“The time is now for Syria’s regime to face real consequences for its actions. The international community must uphold the strength and legitimacy of international law in the face of the first confirmed uses of chemical weapons by a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a written statement on Friday. “Inaction is simply not an option.”
“To that end, we are working within the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN Security Council to extend the instrumental work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) and to send a clear message that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.”
The investigation, released publicly Thursday after first being reported late last week, found that on March 16, 2015, in the village of Qmenas in Idlib province, Assad armed forces dropped a device from a helicopter that released a toxic substance when it hit the ground. Witnesses and hospital staff said the smell and symptoms were consistent with chlorine gas, according to the report.
The report comes after the same investigation team in August attributed two other chlorine gas attacks to regime forces.
“The fourth and latest report from the JIM, publicly released today, found that the Syrian Arab Armed Forces used a toxic chemical as a weapon in a third incident, adding to the previous JIM report’s finding that the Syrian Arab Armed Forces used toxic chemicals as a weapon in two separate instances, in 2014 and 2015,” Toner added.
“All those confirmed to have been involved in the use of chemical weapons in Syria must be held accountable. To date, however, a handful of countries continue to shield the Assad regime from the consequences of its own actions, even as evidence mounts of its confirmed use of chemical weapons.”
President of the Syrian Coalition Anas Alabdah in early September sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and to former president of the UN Security Council Ramlan Bin Ibrahim concerning the third report of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
The letter called for “punitive measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, as required by Security Council resolutions 2118 (2013), 2209 (2015) and 2235 (2015) sanctioning the Syrian regime for its defiance of international law and its willful killing of innocent civilians.” (Source: Syrian Coalition + Agencies)